.Tim Hawkinson is Wonderfully Weird at PACE

'All that glitters, Must come Down' keeps things strange at Palo Alto gallery

Not all who wander Pace Gallery will be lost while considering the work of Tim Hawkinson’s new exhibit, ‘All that glitters, Must come Down.’

A recent visitor to the Pace Gallery described Tim Hawkinson’s exhibit All that glitters, Must come Down as “super fun.” She went on to call out the Baldachin series in particular, noting that the artist was “playing with the classical figure” but wishing that the inkjet scrolls were on a nicer material.

They’re hanging vertically and mounted on gold emergency blankets that look like appropriate drapery for the inhabitants of a future space colony.

The artist has digitally altered human nudes, twisting every limb and appendage around and around. Each body is in a virtual knot. It’s a vision of an inelegant ice skater’s triple axel that ends in a disastrous pose. After finishing her tour of the work, the patron thanked the gallery assistant on her way out the door saying, “You make the neighborhood a better place.”

The four Baldachin nudes she mentioned are cousins to Francis Bacon’s tortured souls—but they’re all putty-colored. Bacon’s torment hits the viewer with a gorgeous range of paints that terrorize the eyes as they take in the vast expanse of his canvases. That sense of psychic distress doesn’t come through in Hawkinson’s work. Porcine pink dominates the exhibit, and it’s monotonous. Urethane sculptures also reflect the monochromatic sameness of those prints. They’re simulacra of body parts, torn apart and reconfigured, the work of a Victor Frankenstein who failed his high school anatomy class. Instead of summoning up a troubled psyche, the sculptures stand alone like cold, inert ideas of the warm-blooded, fleshly bodies they’re meant to represent.

In Odalisque, one of several other similarly themed spore-like sculptures, casts of a round belly and its button, the toe end of a foot, a cupped hand and perhaps a knee, an elbow or a shoulder blade, are conjoined in the middle like a damaged fetus that’s continued to grow into adulthood without a torso, heart or brain. There are two more works with “odalisque” in the title. One is black and silver made of urethane, epoxy and fabric. The second is called Diamond Odalisque, its “diamond” shine coming from a mirrored mylar wrap. Both have tentacles that circle and curve around each other, suggesting the shape of cephalopods. These pieces aren’t unlike the balloon animals a clown makes at a child’s birthday party, but made colorless and sized for adults.

Also childlike in inspiration is the exhibition’s centerpiece, Juggernaut. The gallery assistant said the concept came in part from Hawkinson’s daughter. The artist has mounted a glittering tiara onto a spinning gyroscope. Inside of these moving circles are six red, yellow and blue cans of BernzOmatic gas torches. One or more of them contains a rubber ball that bounces and beams out a ringing, metallic sound. This contraption lives on top of a pool ladder on wheels. It stays in motion for 12 minutes then stops if its sensors can’t detect anyone nearby. The juggernaut is a dizzying, insistent child’s fantasy that whispers in her ear, “One day soon you too shall become a princess!” Either Disney or Meghan Markle has a lot to answer for in the Hawkinson household.

All that glitters, Must come Down brought to mind the “Death” episode of the British television series Absolutely Fabulous. Eddie Monsoon’s (Jennifer Saunders) father has died. To assuage her grief, or her inability to grieve, she visits a London art gallery. Accompanied by a gallerist she declares, “I’m a serious collector. I’m not interested in artistic value. I just want to know how much this is going to be worth in 20 years’ time.” She sees a flimsy mobile, a humanoid-shaped robot made from a stack of old televisions, and a plaster pair of lumpy green, high-heeled shoes. Eddie concludes her tour by saying, “It all looks like bollocks so it must be worth something.” Hawkinson may be openly mocking the art-buying public in this exhibit, or he may just want visitors to think the work is super fun.

Tim Hawkinson: All that glitters, Must come Down
Thru Sep. 9, Free
Pace Gallery


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