While I have not seen this body of work in person, I participated in an exhibition with Patrick earlier this year at the Zhou B Art Center in Chicago. The exhibition entitled From Motion to Stillness was co-curated by Didi Menendez, Publisher, Editor and Creator of Poets and Artists and Sergio Gomez, Gallery Director of the Zhou B Art Center. Patrick chose to exhibit his work from his series Equivalent Exchange in which he resides on a high pedestal using his own nude figure presented as a sculptural form in semi-classical or traditional nude figure poses as if stepping onto a stage in order to be drawn or painted by a class full of students or in context of the exhibition, an audience of public gallery-hoppers. His work makes a powerful human connection utilizing masses of bodies and fleshy paint, usually composed in larger-than-life scale and mostly with singular and double bodies as the main source of content.
His work touches on power, identity, race, gender and politics.
While his new work in Significant Other strikes a cord with these themes they also seem to amplify his progressoin in tackiling larger narratives within the western canons of life, death, and mortality, while also addressing very contemporray issues of race, gender politics, domesticity and relationships.
Indeed, I see many of these pieces as being a contemporary and domestic representation of the ELEVATION and the DESCENT from the cross.
In all four (4) of Hammie’s images (posted above) ordered only for my particular translation and no other purpose, we see references to a female figure who is in various states of holding, mourning and struggling with the body of her male counterpoint. Both figures are nude and reenact what may be perceived as a great physical and spiritual struggle of holding on or letting go as one’s love or life transitions away from the other (in death or otherwise).
In House of Cardswe are brought in close and tight as the two figure struggle through a sort of contemporary dance. A moment and movement caught from a low vantage point allows you to travel up the male form past his manhood stretching over the breadth of his chest where his meets hers and then deep into a pocket of the female form under her right breast and arm which suspends his dead weight. In fact you lose the male head/identity almost altogether and in its place the woman’s head is centered as she reaches over and through and down carrying his body weight. With Herculean strength and as the solitary “living” figure she is solely focused on the sacred deposition.
Aureole presents us with a modern Pieta. The triangular composition is made more complex with the male figure lying frontal like a facade or a bas-relief anchoring the full breadth of the lower canvas. The female form reaches over the male figure, her right arm on his chest, her hand touching his breast and shoulders forming a square through which with great concern she seeks his attention and life and care. His body still serving as an anchor from where she stabilizes her form and reaches while her other arm is in an act of compassion and touch. His sleep implies death, but his genitalia and the shadow that stretches up his lower belly implies life and resurrection .
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Labor I provides us with perhaps the most distant narrative of the 4 compositions. The male body has already been laid out, straightened and made to be wrapped. He extends at a slight angle from the lower left side of the composition and narrowly skims the bottom of the canvas. There is a thrust of his arms that reaches up to hers through an extension, and seemingly a last breath, as she continue to prepare his body. She extends from his tangled arms reaching up, attempting to stand, but still in the act of letting go, and/or preparing for his deposition.
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In Nightwatch, the woman looks outside the canvas (the only of the 4) as if to plea for assistance from some onlooker, while the male has already transitioned to a sleep with just his head and shoulders residing in the bottom leftt corner quadrant of the canvas. He is aglow in the light and slumber of his peace while the female figure struggles alone forming another pyramid that anchors the composition and allows us to arch and rise into her form and lonely trial. All of the heat pulls into her centered form and the cool cold reality engulfs her past and future.
Robin presents a diptych of extraordinary measure in its seemingly simple composition and narrative.
A nude couple in repose with backs leaning broadside on each other reside at the bottom of the canvas with only about an inch or so of foreground. The mass of their bodies fills the canvas and stretches in elongated fashion filling both canvases of the diptych. The eye moves from figure to figure and body to body through a series of linear movements emphasized by the compact design of arms, shins, thighs and backs with both faces being obscured in some way.
On the left panel, a woman though quite possibly a man (?), sits with her left leg being cinched tightly into her torso. Her body parts are covered and her facial features are hidden by her arm/elbow in such a position so as to obscure her face at its very zenith. Her hands hang casually in the front of her midsection which resides in cool yet saturated tones. Whereas her back is lit with light warm pinks and serve as a backing or prop for the male figure that intrudes into her space.
The right panel is filled with the male figure, also nude, who leisurely reclines into the other canvas and the space of the woman/his companion. The recline of his body is less compact as he turns and opens his body to bask in the light of yellows and pinks. His back side is turned to us and compliments his companions cool colors at her front with saturated pinks and oranges at his back.
These figures are not unlike many of the bathers or nudes you might traditionally see from ourModern Masters.
Robin F. Williams has reduced the narrative so as to remove the water, sand vegetation or even a horizon line with no ability to gain our bearings on the surrounding, no sense of place and with really no other accoutrement that allow us to provide a narrative beyond the bodies themselves and the dialogues of their formal elements. We, the viewer are placed so low in the perspective that all else is removed except the figures. They become monumental in their silence, backing each other and propping one another, forever languid in a simple gesture of symbiotic behavior.
Jeff Bark presents two pieces ( a couple, if you will ) each focusing in tight on the pubic region of a couple, one male and one female. The legs trail off in a severed contraposto from the lower torso of the figures seated at the edge of a table, the hands of the partner reach in and hold onto the hand of the figure who is centrally positioned. The other hand connected to the central figure compliments and balances the overall composition and yet it forms an opposing dialogue to the hands which reach in to hold on. The woman’s left hand is turned in with a slight cupping position. It dangles, if you will with apathy or fatigue. It wants to give up. The male’s hand turns outward in what could be perceived as either asking or giving … but as I see this as a mutual dialogue between the two pieces, it is hard for me not to read into his seeking to pull away and the hand moving towards getting up and leaving. We are drawn around the intimate spaces of the pubic area a flutter with hands, arms and legs which move our view around the central space where arguably our most intimate acts are carried out. The chiaroscuro lighting influences an emotional mindset while the “still life” presentation allow us a space to dwell and look intensely at a very cropped domestic narrative of the “give and take” and the “push and pull” interactions that go on daily within a relationship that is about to divide.
Even when we leave or are left, do we ever really let go?
Once you have made a bond … a connection … can you truly sever it?
I am not sure.
I think our energies and DNA get wrapped up in each other. We log our shared experiences in the synapses of our brain and they forever pull us back to time and place and space and sadness and joy and pleasure and pain that exist there to remind us that we were once a one-summed duo even if we have been separated for many years. The spirit/soul connects us intimately more strongly than we understand … that is, if you truly give/share yourself with your partner and accept them for all who they are as well as yourself.
But even in extremely intimate and loving relationships, we still seek to carve ourselves some space for us to withdraw into a place of shelter, to protect us even from our love, and to provide a place for our secret thoughts to dwell and our private selves to thrive.
It is only when we pry it open, expose the private dwelling and offer to share that which we protect when we can truly break boundaries of intimacy and reach new plateau’s of awareness for authentic living and loving.
Once someone chooses to let go and release their grip, and stop holding on (for whatever reason), the unwinding starts … an unravelling if you will. It starts off slow, with small intimacies … and then eventually its carves a larger space of loneliness to the point where it become an insurmountable barrier, a physical force that impedes one’s ability to re-connect and bridge the distancing gaps.
These barriers stem from the feeling of being abandoned.
We quit holding hands, pull away, stop spooning, turn to our side, tune out, turn to other interests, stop sitting by each other, stop cuddling, stop listening, stop caring, we release, we let go, we look for other intimacies to fill the void. And we feel lonely after having done so. But filling the void is an impossibility. Someone else can’t. They may be able to fill part of that hole, but there will be other gaps that they can’t fill … and other cracks that they can’t mend. Only we ourselves can make us whole along with divine assistance and help from a universe that is so in-tune to our needs despite our lacking the perception and understanding.
What makes one want to create a relationship, and then move away from it, escape, and then desire to come back to what feels comfortable, to return to the familiar, and yet still withdraw inside?
Can we come back once that separation has occurred, can we ever trust again?