Magazine article Sculpture

NEW YORK: Ann Hamilton

Magazine article Sculpture

NEW YORK: Ann Hamilton

Article excerpt

Ann Hamilton

Park Avenue Armory

Park Avenue Armory Ann Hamilton, who trained as a weaver, understands the importance of repeating the same gesture or movement over and over again until one obtains an accumulation of actions, which may merely seem, or may actually be, significant. These actions may come and go, leaving- like much of what we do-no tangi- ble trace, or they may result in an object. Hamilton's work relies on largeness of scale, as well as grand- ness of setting, repetition (which presumably leads the practitioner into a near trance-like state), and Bergsonian durée. It is also steeped in nostalgia, which, when handled lightly, can lead to gripping results; however, Hamilton's gravitas and quasi-penitential work ethic (also embraced by her participants) can come across as bombastic.

For a recent multimedia installa- tion, Hamilton took over the huge Wade Thompson Drill Hall of the Park Avenue Armory, an oddly fasci- nating building dedicated in 1880. The 55,000-square-foot vaulted hall, with its brick, metal, and glass sur- faces burnished by wear, is imposing indeed, threatening to dwarf much of the work exhibited in it, but Hamilton triumphed over this chal- lenge with a huge diaphanous white silk curtain. Bisecting the colossal space along its width, this decep- tively simple intervention was set in motion by willing participants. In front of and behind the curtain were 42 wood-planked swings (21 on each side), each holding up to three people. The swings, suspended from very long chains, activated pulleys that caused the fabric to rise and fall, swell and recede. The bodies swinging back and forth along par- allel lines resembled balls at the ends of pendulums, marking time. The colossal field of floating fabric was chock-full of allusions, most obviously to Christo's Valley Curtain (1972), but also to winds and rolling seas across time and space (think Odysseus and Aeneas), as well as the Silk Route. It also conjured Isadora Duncan's gliding veils, and, beyond these, the thin, clinging draperies of classical Greek tradition that reveal, and hide, parts of the body.

The swings also took us back to youth, and a presumed age of inno- cence-a sensation that became more direct when one took active part in Hamilton's relational aesthet- ics. …

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