Art Beat: A graceful gesture

The Walker surveys Jim Hodges' career; plus, Pop art prints at Highpoint

Detail from "Ghost," a Jim Hodges sculpture made in collaboration with a Seattle glass blower. Credit: Submitted image

LOWRY HILL — The spider web appears as a motif early in the career of Jim Hodges, and in a survey of his work at the Walker Art Center, it pops up here and there: in a drawing, clinging to the gallery walls, as chains strung across the entrance to an alcove.

It could be a metaphor for “Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take,” an early contender for show of the year. Hodges’ art is graceful and emotionally generous, and when you leave the galleries it will cling to you like cobwebs.

A few years ago, the Walker installed an untitled Hodges sculpture on its sloping lawn, not far from James Turrell’s “Sky Pesher”: four massive boulders, each between eight and 13 tons, each partially covered in brightly colored polished stainless steel, as if dipped in a candy coating. His work is often described as poetic, and it fits; there’s an economy of gesture, a sense of refinement, paired with a keen eye for what is beautiful in both art and nature.

Inside the gallery, the evidence of this is everywhere. Silk flowers, disassembled into their component petals and stems and stamens, are pinned to a white wall in a loose constellation. Round, fractured mirrors, like flattened disco balls, scatter light in a narrow passageway that connects two of the galleries.

Hodges, 56, was born in Spokane, Wash., and as a boy would often go into the woods to draw, said Jeffrey Grove, a senior curator at the Dallas Museum of Art and co-curator of this survey with Walker Executive Director Olga Viso. Said Grove: “He’s really a draftsman at heart.”

In the ’80s, Hodges studied painting at New York City’s Pratt Institute, but he gave up painting early on. He has spoken in interviews of feeling overwhelmed by the weight of painting’s history. A basic and direct form of expression, drawing suits Hodges, and the practice seems to inform his work in other media, which here include sculpture, installations, photographs and collages.

Hodges doesn’t mask his sensitivity, but his drawings are some of his most unguarded and affecting work. “A Diary of Flowers (When We Met)” is a collection of 72 pen–and–ink drawings of flowers that Hodges made in the early ’90s, done on paper napkins from the deli where he picked up coffee on his way to work. The drawings are pinned to the wall in a tight cluster — a garden of doodles, each unique.

Although the flower drawings became a daily practice, a ritual of sorts, Hodges insists he wasn’t thinking of anything in particular when he made them. To Viso, though, who notes that they were created as the AIDS crisis ravaged the gay community, the piece reads as elegiac, like the flowers at a funeral.

An installation, “the dark gate,” is an explicit reaction to death. Made while Hodges’ mother was dying, it consists of a wood-paneled box in a dark room. Visitors enter the box, lit by a single bulb, to find the gate at the far end: stainless steel spikes converging on an oculus. It’s a forbidding passage between the light inside and the darkness outside the box, and Hodges has scented it with his mothers’ perfume.

There’s much more to be seen en route to the show’s climax, a dramatic, 13-by-24-foot drawing (of sorts) of sunrays erupting from behind a wall of clouds. This image of the sublime was constructed from one of the humblest of materials: denim in every shade, from white to grey to indigo, cut up and then stitched together by Hodges and a team of seamstresses.

Give more than you take. Hodges lives up to his promise. 

Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take

WHEN: Through May 11

WHERE: Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave.

INFO: 375-7600, walkerart.org

Roy Lichtenstein’s “Before the Mirror.” Submitted image.

The prints of pop

THE WEDGE — In a 2007 interview with his hometown newspaper, The Oregonian, real estate mogul Jordan D. Schnitzer said of his massive contemporary print collection: “I collect to share; I don’t collect to own.”

What else to do with a trove that reportedly numbers more than 8,000 pieces? Twenty-six of them arrived at Highpoint Center for Printmaking in February, and they represent some of the Pop art highlights of Schnitzer’s holdings.

There are two Andy Warhol daisies, as well as a fractured still life by Roy Lichtenstein of a lemon reflected in a mirror. And there’s a later version of one of Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE” images; dating from the mid-’90s, “Heliotherapy LOVE” adds a bright yellow border to the red block letters on a contrasting green and blue background.

Wayne Thiebaud resisted the categorization, but his paintings of candies and confections have an affinity with Pop. Two Thiebaud prints are notable for their restrained palette and the artist’s masterful use of light and shadow.

Keep an eye out for two Brits: Julian Opie, whose own career began roughly two decades after Pop’s peak, but whose colorful, minimalist images resonate with the movement; and David Hockney, represented here with two prints, including one of his well-known pool images, filled with translucent blue and bathed in the intense, crystalline light of southern California, where he’s lived off-and-on for the past three decades.

 Pop Art & Beyond

WHEN: Through March 29

WHERE: Highpoint Center for Printmaking, 912 W. Lake St.

INFO: 871-1326, highpointprintmaking.org