Mocking up Where Nature and Structure Meet
Patrick Hill’s maquettes, on display at Susanne Hilberry Gallery along with a large number of 2D works in a solo exhibition titled, appropriately, “Drawings and Maquettes 2014-2016,” are constructed in such a way that you can feel their potential to tower benevolently above you. You seem to be looking across the galleries from atop a high mountain at a curious experiment in integrated living down below. Hill’s 2D works evoke a similar experience of upended scale. Viewing images of them, it’s difficult to discern which are human-scaled and which small and intimate, inviting the viewer to huddle in close. Patrick Hill’s visual language is as rock-solid as the formal principles of sculpture, on which he bases both his 2D and 3D works. His solo exhibition transforms Susanne Hilberry’s galleries into a vast, charming landscape that evokes the West Coast, and Los Angeles in particular, in a tickling synesthesia of palette, forms, structures, visual and cultural references, and scale.
Hill balances the solid, earthbound heft of his sculptural forms with light materials, colors, and narratives. His titles play with words and ideas, swinging between references to mysticism, nature, and pop culture (three exemplary titles are Threshold [New Thought II], Outdoor Study, and Kelly Bundy). A pair of ink and tea wash studies on paper are subtitled Moons and Boobs- channeling spiritual and formal rhymes between words in a way that keeps the conversation around this interesting work funny and light.
True to the three dimensional formal principles they borrow, Hill’s multimedia drawings contain layers of real and simulated texture. Their slapdash, playful surfaces are only part of the story- a closer look at works such as Fan Death (Double) reveals the artists fertile engagement with natural forms that collide in beautiful, meditative ways with empirical, human-made structures. The folds that lift the heavy paper off of the wall begin to reference the first steps of an origami structure, which is overlaid with a Frank Stella-esque drawn architectural/fan form, over which Hill has collaged blackberries. The above-mentioned synesthesia that makes Hill’s work more and more intriguing is in full force here. It’s present, too, in Palm (black and pink) which makes a spray paint stencil of an actual palm frond, evoking the surface quality of rapidly executed street art and, with the leaf’s delicate, vibrating edges, the iconic West Coast sound of wind moving through palm trees.
Hill is constantly flipping heavy and light throughout the works in “Drawings and Maquettes.” This visual/conceptual romp is especially enjoyable in his sculptures, which point toward human scale while seldom exceeding a foot or two in height.
In this respect, they’re successful as maquettes- and it matters that it’s the maquettes that are being shown, in all their rough-edged, paint-spattered humility. Despite their sculptural construction and prep-drawing feel, the maquettes capture the spirit of Hill’s work better than the hinted- at final pieces ever could. They are heavy and light, silly and serious, funny and touching, all at once. It’s a fine balance, and one Hill manages with a deceptively care-free abandon.
“Patrick Hill- Drawings and Maquettes” is on display at Susanne Hilberry Gallery through June 4, 2016.