Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Overwhelming Catharsis: In the Eye of Hunter Reynolds

[“Hurricane Wilma” (2009), photo weaving. “Real Love” (2009), photo weaving.]

“Real Love: Wilma, Hurricane Hunter” is Hunter Reynolds’ first solo exhibition in New York in five years. Since 2001 Reynolds has experienced a series of life-altering events: the September 11, 2001 attacks; substance abuse; surviving AIDS; Hurricane Wilma; a close friend's suicide; the collapse of his immune system; and four HIV-related strokes leaving his right hand partially paralyzed. This exhibition is the sum total of these events. Viewers entering the gallery will be surrounded by a series of large-format works called "photo-weavings" formed by physically sewing together hundreds of smaller photographs. Fresh and beautiful, photographic components of these pieces document the cathartic meltdown experienced by Reynolds during autumn 2005—when Hurricane Wilma destroyed his Florida studio.

Wreckage documented in this cycle of work includes Reynolds’ paint-spattered and watered damaged work from an earlier series, not to mention CD covers, paper fragments, work by other artists, and shards of broken glass thrown and bonded by the forces of wind and rain. Bits of this detritus will be on view in the gallery along with the looming photo weavings. Additionally, Reynolds will present several remote story-telling/conversation performances via Skype and a mini-documentary covering the hurricane and studio-salvage efforts by Reynolds. Such efforts to transform this wreckage and personal history evolve into various and layered testaments of survival.

While all of these elements manage to come together in a complete context, the encompassed constituent elements are never quite subdued. For nearly 30 years, Reynolds' work has engaged with gender identity, body politics, and personal histories. In the larger orbit of his work and especially in this installation, Reynolds reveals tremendous forbearance and resilience in forging aspirations and a barebones willingness to carry on—despite life’s dark and desperate turns. Says Reynolds: "Art has always been one of the tools I have used to heal myself and others and to find order in the chaos of my life, by not only telling the story through art, but by transforming myself in the process of making it, using it to rebuild my life, finding hope and beauty and a desire to be alive."

“Real Love” (2009) takes on special meaning within the larger framework of Reynolds’ installation: In 1990, British vocalist Lisa Stansfield was among a coterie of well-known artists to participate in the “Red Hot + Blue” CD that honored Cole Porter, while benefitting AIDS research at a time when government efforts were woefully deficient.

As an AIDS activist, Reynolds was an early member of ACTUP and in 1989 co-founded Art Positive, an affinity group of ACT-UP, to fight homophobia and censorship in the arts. Art Positive in New York (along with Boy With Arms Akimbo in San Francisco) were important reservoirs of resistance during the period that the NEA Four (Karen Finley, Tim Miller, John Fleck, and Holly Hughes) had their funding vetoed by John Frohnmayer in June 1990 and when the funding of a catalogue featuring the work of David Wojnarowicz (1954-1993) was defunded to the tune of $15,000. This was also during the time that artists such as Andres Serrano were attacked on the floor of Congress and a scheduled exhibition of work by Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was cancelled in June 1989 by the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C. Those heady days saw tireless work by Reynolds and his colleagues who responded with agitprop and vociferous activism.

Hunter Reynolds has exhibited his work at museums and galleries widely in the US and abroad. He recently exhibited at Artists Space (New York), Mary Goldman Gallery (Los Angeles), and at Gavlak (West Palm Beach). Additionally, he has been the recipient of many grants and residencies including a Pollock Krasner Grant this year.

Real Love—Hurricane Wilma, Hurricane Hunter: Hunter Reynolds

@ Momenta Art

359 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Through June 15th, 2009

Gallery hours: Thurs – Mon 12-6 pm

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