Magazine article Artforum International

Frederick Hammersley: La Louver

Magazine article Artforum International

Frederick Hammersley: La Louver

Article excerpt

Frederick Hammersley's Option open, 2000-2002, is a small oil-on-linen painting of flatly brushstroked, vibrant, curvilinear sea anemone- and coral-like shapes that suggest hues and forms undulating into and out of one another. The thing floats within its frame, whose exterior is faux-wormholed wood, brusquely whitewashed and dimpled repeatedly along its inner edge. The painting alone makes much of Monique Prieto redundant, while the frame recalls a Joseph Cornell--meets--Vincent Fecteau sculptural device. Together, both parts ask (without the Frank Stella bombast) that deciding between sculpture and painting remain optional, open.

"If I had asked ... what are we going to talk about? what is the subject today? the answer would have come very quickly: about Frederick Hammersley, or about the paintings of Frederick Hammersley. But will the question have been about whom or about what? We always pretend to know what a corpus is all about." I rewrite a bit of Derrida to try to pose some questions about what to do with this man and his work. Hammersley refers to the part of his corpus presented here as "organic abstract paintings" in part to mark their difference from his hard-edge abstractions, which negotiate a cheerful territory somewhere between Ellsworth Kelly and John McLaughlin. Apparently Hammersley completes each work with a title from a list he's kept for many years, and thinks of this element as (again, according to the press release) an "opening wedge to get into the painting." It's a somewhat corny idea, and the awkward punniness of the linguistic elements would seem to ironize any seamless seeming of word to image, referent to nonrepresentation. But the result isn't corny, at least no more corny than the critics' responses, which invoke or allude to "biomorphism" in descriptions of these paintings' forms and content. …

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