Jessica Jackson Hutchins, The Hepworth, Wakefield

This spring The Hepworth Wakefield presents Chicago born artist Jessica Jackson Hutchins (b.1971) in her solo debut in a UK public gallery. Hutchins has engaged with the legacy of Barbara Hepworth as part of the process of making this new body of work, housed until May 2013.

At the centre of the exhibition are three large scale canvas works, glorious in colour, which adopt industrial metal ladders as both base and a recognizable DIY prop. Conceived as paintings within space, these ladders are draped with rigid, painted and collaged canvasses. Also prominent in situ is the appropriation of old furniture and large ceramic vessels that speak about human frailty and bodily vulnerability. Here both the junk-sale feel and the awkward combinations of objects offer the viewer both a glance into the disorderly routines of the household and the chaos of domestic life.

Hutchins work has been in high demand as of late with works being shipped off to various group shows, including the Brussels Barbara Gladstone Gallery, London’s Timothy Taylor Gallery and to Rome’s Federica Schiavo Gallery. This year she will have solo shows at New York’s Laurel Gitlen Gallery as well as here at the Hepworth in Wakefield.

Hutchins often starts her process by reviving discarded domestic items and found objects as the beginnings to her sculptures and collages. The artist transforms household objects, anything from paper cups, dining tables, chairs, baby clothes to old furniture into emotionally raw art pieces. On first contemplation, what initially look like lo-fi artworks, layered paint, papier-mâché pieces and old newspaper clippings fixed to discarded furniture are, in fact, clever comments, metaphors, and and a commentary on linguistic change.

The artist often situates her ceramics in the familiar context of everyday furniture, some from her own home; a carved up kitchen table, ripped chairs and also painted sofas in an apparent response to Rauschenberg’s dictum to act in the gap between art and life. A big part of Hutchins process is to use whatever is in accessible means and then, by turning it into a sculpture, Hutchins believes that this bestows dignity and memorializes their daily use into something, if not sacred, at least worthy of contemplation. This body of work at the Hepworth explores and transforms the relationships between people and objects and how they both form and inform each other. Her work initiates that people inevitably look for, and thereby create meaning and understanding in the things around us. Whether they become contemplative art objects or not, we instill them with a kind of existential significance that gives us aspiration, compassion and self-recognition.

These works featured in the Hepworth Exhibition are part of a trio of exhibitions including Linder Sterling and Alice Channer, will later tour to CentrePasquArt, Kunthaus Centre D’art, Biel, Switzerland in June 2013.

Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Alice Channer and Linder Sterling, 16 February – 12 May, The Hepworth Wakefield, Gallery Walk, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF1 5AW.

Clare Nattress

1. © Jessica Jackson Hutchins 2012 Image courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery London.
2. © Jessica Jackson Hutchins 2012 Image courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery London.