If Joe Hedges is trying to convey a message, I don’t get it. But as purely aesthetic objects and images, they’re fascinating; and perhaps that’s the point, that they make the viewer wonder what’s going on, what kind of future world we’ve entered. The largest and most imposing object in the show is something called “Inscriptions,” which sits somewhat ominously in the middle of the gallery. It’s made of various electronics with a couple of television or computer monitors and a large, inflatable egg. The egg is gray and about the size of a medicine ball. Everything is connected by a jangle of electrical wires, and there’s a Lasko brand tower heater and a large hose that snakes down from the ceiling. It’s like some kind of steampunk machine but sleeker and more modernistic. In terms of how effectively it conveys whatever the artist is trying to say, I’m at a loss, but it is fun to look at. Much the same can be said for the other sculptural objects in this show.
The paintings, on the other hand, are traditional pictures of objects aligned on a table with curtains, like paintings of fruit and bowls and kitchen implements that have been museum staples since the Renaissance, except the objects he paints are unrecognizable as anything that actually exists. My first thought upon seeing them was of William Bailey, one of the rare, contemporary painters who still successfully paints in that tradition. Then I thought of another artist from an earlier period whose works Hedges’s paintings look even more like: I couldn’t think of the name until I saw that two of the smaller paintings were tributes to the 19th-century trompe-l’œil painter William Harnett. There are a lot of these little paintings, all with strange objects on a table with extremely dark brown or black backgrounds, beautifully balanced and painted with finesse, the tables upon which they sit almost vanishing into the dark backgrounds.
There are two much larger paintings, approximately four by five feet. One of these, called “Color Field Painting,” has a computer monitor with a bright-blue screen and a bright-yellow curtain in front of a dark brown wall. In front of that sits an actual chair. The field of blue on the monitor is the “color field,” a play on words referring to a modernist art movement.
Hedges’s sculptural objects, paintings and prints are all meticulously crafted and beautifully designed. The attempt to figure out possible meanings should be intellectually challenging and enjoyable for viewers.
(This review appears courtesy of The Weekly Volcano.)
What: Joe Hedges: Empirical Evidence
Where: The Gallery at the Kenneth J Minnaert Center for the Arts,
South Puget Sound Community College,
2011 Mottman Rd. SW, Olympia
When: noon – 4 p.m. weekdays through May 12
How much: free
Learn more: 360-596-5527 | SPSCC