Impregnated with references to the history of Modernism, the videos of Alex Hubbard develop passages in which a diversity of materials are subjugated to processes of construction, composition, dismantling or destruction. The presentation of his work at the Museo Experimental El Eco included two related video works —both from 2009— that subtly play on a history of abstraction in painting and sculpture.
Heads in the Dark is displayed horizontally on a flat-screen monitor, a positioning that specifically references the scale and format of a painting. In the video, the camera is placed above a large table, a filming structure that the artist has engaged in previous works. Covering the table is an array of seemingly random materials, such as newspapers, magazines, postcards, seashells, geometric shapes cut in paper, paintbrushes and mirrors. The viewer watches as the artist moves these elements around this surface, displaying his arms and hands from various positions across the table. Through these movements the artist creates various moments of focus, small compositions de- veloped out of these initial materials, while con- tinuously adding other elements as well. Through this process, his chromatic choices slowly emerge as quite studied, with an emphasis on blues, reds, oranges and flesh tones. Slowly, what initially appeared to be an uninterrupted flow of arrangements, begins to evidence temporal fractures and subtle inconsistencies. The viewer notices that the hands of the artist often move too quickly from one side of the table to another, while subtle cuts or gaps in the sequence additionally make evident that the work is actually the result of extensive editing. The various sounds in the video begin to evidence their displacement from the actions they describe, revealing their status as Foley sound effects, added separately to the video, recorded from Internet, television, or film sources.
Significant segments of Heads in the Dark involve the placement of postcards of both the Empire State Building in New York City (itself perhaps a reference to the film of the same subject by Andy Warhol) and images of a sunset— leaning against one-another and then stacked, creating “house-of-cards” structures. The inclination of various chromatic planes is a formal device that is repeated on a significantly larger scale in the second video presented at El Eco, Screens for Recalling the Black Out. As in the previous work, the camera plays a crucial structuring role, here positioned in the center of a large room that resembles a stage set. The camera slowly pans around this space, pursuing the artist as he positions various building materials within its frame. Sheets of transparent plastics, mirrors, cement blocks, fabrics, large red reflective surfaces or faux tile walls, are stacked or leaned against one another, or slid into view. Elements are presented as built structures, walls or standing screens, which then quickly fall onto one another and break apart. The piece is intentionally projected in a vertical format and at a size that references the many shifting planes it depicts. As these elements are collaged within this rectangular view, they take on an increasingly abstract character, their cuts, angles and colors referencing a history of the fractured planes of Cubism, Russian Constructivist works or Minimalism ́s experiments in reduced form.
The entropic cycles developed in these works become akin to structures within language. The artist presents himself as the protagonist in these works, constructing various sequences. These temporal flows evoke speech or text, as various materials are brought together in a manner similar to how words can be assembled. At times these elements can be “read”, while in other instances their meaning is obscured. The literacy that Alex Hubbard ́s artworks entail is one linked to the recent history of art, as his materials continually evoke numerous references within this context. Through these processes, the works develop a rich dialogue and evolution of contemporary notions of abstraction.
Tobias Ostrander, Curator
Alex Hubbard (Born in Newport, Oregon in 1975. Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York). Hubbard received his B.F.A. from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in 1999 and participated in the Whitney Museum´s Independent Study Program in 2002-2003. His Solo exhibitions include: Spaced Yourself, STANDARD (OSLO), Oslo, 2009; Gallery-C at Team Gallery, New York, 2009; Failed Projects and Ambien Drawings, Studio Miko, New York, 2009; Last Best Offer, Tony Wight Gallery, Chicago ,2008; Alex Hubbard, House of Gaga / Gaga Arte Contemporano, Mexico City, 2008; Alex Hubbard and Oscar Tuazon, St Louis Museum of Contemporary Art, St Louis, 2008; Alex Hubbard, Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, New York, 2008; Collapse of the Expanded Field, Castillo/Corrales, Paris, 2007; Alex Hubbard On Speed, Reena Spaulings Fine Art, New York, 2004. His work was also shown last year in Nothingness and Being at the Jumex Collection Mexico and additionally being presented in the Whitney Biennial 2010.
The works of Alex Hubbard are courtesy of the artist and Gaga México D.F.