REVIEW

Back in 2008 I posted my serial  'Strange People'  in Second Life. 

'Brooklyn is Watching' was a hybrid Second Life/Real Life art project. 
A large screen in the gallery ‘Jack the Pelican Presents’ in Brooklyn, New York, transmittted live from their virtual art gallery in Second Life.

'Holly Hax' was the name of my Second Life aka and I was encouraged to exhibit my work in their virtual gallery on the grid.

Artworks from the exhibit can be viewed below.

Posted by Amy Freelunch on Saturday, June 14th, 2008 at 8:58 pm

Holly Hax: Everything’s ok … ok?

We requested on the last podcast that artist Holly Hax leave us a little more of her work. What we have seen by her we’ve liked, but it’s hard to just jump into a critique cold, not really knowing anything at all about the artist. This is somehow especially true when you talk about work that is closer to painting and drawing rather than sculpture, but I’m not totally sure how to articulate why that is.

Anyway, Hax totally came through. For starters, she gets about a million points for building a nice gallery space around her work – nothing over the top or too fancy, just straightforward enough to get the point across and nicely frame the pieces as a group. I can’t even begin to tell you how helpful this is.

Then there’s the work itself:

She presents to us a series of images depicting contorted bodies. Several different artists come to mind, including the work of the Utagawa school which was shown at the Brooklyn Museum, which has a similarity to Hax’s work in its simplified palette and lack of depth; to Nancy Spero and Nicola Tyson, with whom she shares a similarity in line; to Fang Lijun and Ida Applebroog, who also use abstracted and distorted human figures in repetition to create a kind of psychological state.

The figures are so distorted that it’s hard in some cases to tell arms from legs, or whether a pile of bodies is an orgy in action or a stack of murder victims. Many of the figures seem engaged in some sort of private, obsessive pursuit (is the one on the right here doing leg lifts while dogs have sex in the back?) which is strange and unsettling, as if the viewer has a glimpse into a secret world maybe she shouldn’t be glimpsing into

Several of the figures have oversized heads plopped onto what appear to otherwise be adult frames.

Unlike a work of art (especially SL art)  that is loaded down with bells and whistles and every trick in the book, Hax’s images do a lot with very little. A simple combination of line drawings, fields of solid color, juxtaposed bodies, and a muted palette go an awfully long way. The work feels very complete in that way – she is presenting us with a completed body of work, rather than a work in progress as many people do – and their strength is only magnified by seeing several together. (It bears mentioning that I don’t generally care for salon style shows, but in this case the installation has that sort of practical, get-it-done feel that while I won’t go so far as to say compliments the work, it at least doesn’t detract from it.

Off to the side, Hax has installed a lovely modern chair, pair of sexy high heels, and a bouquet of pretty flowers:

I’m not entirely sure if it’s the artist’s intention to have these things discussed in conjunction with the rest of the work, but for me personally having them sitting there among all this strangely ambiguous and very curious work strikes me as a wonderfully coy gesture. Together, the chair, the flowers and the shoes, almost signal to the viewer that this isn’t a gallery space at all, but a place to get comfortable. Relax, everything’s ok… ok? they seem to say. And of course, no – not everything is ok, just look at the creepy scenes being enacted on the walls. But it is almost as if by making the space more “normal” or ordinary by interjecting these everyday items, she is actually able to heighten the weirdness of the images.

So ok…. and now, a criticism. While I clearly like this work a lot, the immediate thing that pops to my mind is, Why aren’t they paintings? As in real life oil paintings, maybe around 30 x 40 to start, and then getting bigger than that. The artist could layer up the paint really nicely so that there is this play between the flat fields of color and the line, and the effect of seeing something physically before you can only strengthen already strong imagery. The viscosity, the touch and feel, the sections of shininess and dullness – paint would just really make these images gleam and become impossible to ignore. They’re are definitely strong enough that she could simply transfer them to a canvas and get going and aim to have a show of physical works in RL gallery.

This is the only thing bugging me about this installation… I just want to see Hax go on to use it as a launching off point to go make some fabulous oil paintings, having used SL as a sketch.

And also: more, please. I would really appreciate seeing more of the artist’s work to see where she is taking her overall project. If there is nothing else ready at this time, please just keep me posted for the future.

I think things could get really interesting!

NB!
Amy Freelunch was the SL aka of Amy Wilson a living artist who also teach a variety of classes at the School of Visual Arts in NYC

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