Sep 9, 2009

Alan Emerson Hicks

Recently viewed at a open-studio reception, Alan Emerson Hicks' new body of work combines the repetitive process-driven traditions of such fiber-art forms as basketry and weaving, with the 'new materials' movement of contemporary art to use non-traditional material as the art medium. The artist focuses on the plastic left-overs from our endlessly consumptive society. In the Safety Tower series, he takes the most innocuous of items, the 'safety rings' that are now attached to the bottom of bottle caps to deter and detect tampering, and transforms them into elegant towers of sublime shapes, evoking the basketry traditions of many cultures, but also pointing to a uniquely modern convocation of consumer culture.

In "Chipped Vessel", Alan Emerson Hicks takes used potato chip and other snack bags, and, with fishing line and cable ties, transforms them into rings that again create tower-like forms of subtle complexity and beauty. The seeming weakness of the material is turned surprisingly resilient, somewhat like Buckminster Fuller's famous geodesics. The same alchemy is performed with trash bags in the "Baghdad Tower" series, creating droopy stalagmite-like forms.

In "Babel", plastic caps from various products, as well as the odd plastic toy, create a column of dot-like forms that speak to both recycling ethics and the plastic palette of our modern culture. The form mirrors the roundness of the caps and the vessels from they come. Topped with a ring of white caps, much like a bubbling head of froth on a beer, the shape of the work is hollow, creating tension by being both 'full' and 'empty'. The use of occasional toys and bright colors creates a fun atmosphere, in contrast to the artwork's refined aesthetic nature.

Alan Emerson Hicks has focused this new work not just on recycled 'left-overs' but all plastic materials, sometimes pairing a visual vibrancy with actual dynamic movement. A new version of his work "Video Column" takes the outmoded material of video tape and transforms it into a tendril-like ceiling-high column of black reflections that billow softly like a sea creature, due to a cleverly hidden fan. The sculpture "Ice" takes white clothes hangers and turns them into a gigantic diamond shape, which spins continually with a motor, creating a piece that is at once aesthetically commanding and intellectually funny.  Always maintaining a sense of both beauty and intellectual rigor, Alan Emerson Hicks's artwork is both satisfying and surprising.

From Top: Babel, 2009; Ice, 2009; Safety Tower Sans White, 2009;  
Video Column II, 2009; Chipped Vessel, 2009

Alan's work can be seen at Crazy 8 Art

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