ASRL / PERPETUAL 2014
 
Painting with James Hyde and a Weekend at Mount Tremper Arts
By Maria Goldverg
posted: 07-22-11
James Hyde, Swimmer, 2010 at Steven Zevitas Gallery
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Why painting?  Or, what is it exactly about the act of lathering, or perhaps even feathering or spilling, paint upon a surface that has intrigued artists, critics, thinkers, and aesthetes alike for thousands of years?  And whatever that origin may be, does it grip us in the same way today, in our post-Duchampian era of post-post-modernism, as it did 100+ years ago?  The answer, seemingly, is yes.  That is, according to New York artist James Hyde.  

I first encountered Hyde’s work at the opening of Productive Steps, a “little exhibition” curated by Lucas Blalock and Sam Falls at Mount Tremper Arts.  “Aliens in the outhouse?”: I thought about the sculpture piece of an outhouse that enclosed an alien barely visible through the cracks of the structure.  My subsequent thought, “why on earth would they be hiding in here?” felt disturbingly applicable to my impressions of the exhibit as a whole: why on earth were these works of art hiding on a little mountain in the Catskills?  I don’t think I managed to find a suitable answer throughout the evening’s course of pulled pork and performance art pieces.  I strolled by every piece as I would on a holiday, and James Hyde’s was no exception.  In a sense, everybody lounging around Mt. Tremper really was taking a weekend retreat from the blistering New York City summer.  Unfortunately for me and the rest of Productive Steps, Hyde’s work deserved a more attentive audience.

In an interview with Phong Bui of the Brooklyn Rail, Hyde remarked, “I think painting is never entirely about being a painted object, nor a medium in the narrow sense.  I think painting is, as well, a symbolic and allegorical situation that happens to be made by a particular medium and set of materials.”  If Duchamp brought our attention to the “object” of Art—both its object and it as object—then Hyde, it seems, is talking about something quite different.  Something that is, perhaps, more classical at heart, yet infinitely more refreshing: he’s talking about painting being as elementary as a relationship(s).  “I think painting is basically about attaching particles to surfaces,” he explains.  Phong goes on to discuss pieces in which Hyde paints over reproductions of enlarged sections from Stuart Davis’s paintings.  She says of the two components, Hyde’s and Davis’s: “they harmonize and sometimes they collide.”  This is where their beauty lies.  


And this was why I had such a hard time encountering a beautiful experience.  I could only begrudgingly, if amicably, amble about the grounds.  It felt static.  Everybody seemed alarmingly at ease, at rest, in repose and the art seemed to suit this background.  There was little that was harmonizing, and even less that was colliding.  The art simply wasn’t necessary enough in its context and the product left me disenchanted with the experience of it.  But upon reading Hyde’s last words to Phong Bui—“there is something which is so durable and fascinating about painting that I think you can do a lot of paintings about disenchanting painting and still find them quite magical.”—I think, perhaps, I could have paid closer attention, while I had the chance, and not been so preoccupied with thinking about the alien, the show, the work as mere product, i.e. fabricated art object, I could have found in Hyde’s piece an activity—capable of posture, conversation, and, who knows, maybe even an ethics.  The point here is that there is more to notice in painting than aesthetics: there is mobility and potential for transformation, and there is always more to see than meets the eye.    

Below is a link a perfunctory review of “Not About Paint,” an exhibit featuring Hyde’s work at Steven Zevitas Gallery in Boston.

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