Catalog Essay by James Housefield
Reminder, 2005-2006 at The Dallas Contemporary. On view March 31-June 10, 2006.
“I work to make art out of as little as possible,” Hunter Cross remarks with typical understatement. 1 For the installation created by Cross in this exhibition, Post-itÂ® notes, tabletop fans, and Astroturf work in tandem with the painted image of a tree to create Reminder (2005-2006), 2 an ephemeral work that changes throughout the course of the exhibition. His act of deliberate self-limitation leads to an art that is greater than the sum of its parts, for the humble materials he uses to create works of substantial impact.
Cross asserts that “by making ephemeral work, I feel I am making honest work, gestures that celebrate their own passing. However, I often use traditional mediums such as photography, drawing, and self-published books to collect, communicate, and propose my ideas.” 3 Here, a tree painted directly on the wall in traditional mural style, is modified by the addition of leaves made of Post-itÂ® notes from which a leaf shape has been cut using an industrial produced die. Oscillating fans cause them to blow and flutter within the gallery space, eventually falling to the ground when their glue fails. With the ephemeral installation of Reminder, an age-old association between leaves of paper and leaves of trees encourages viewers to consider the relationships between industry and environment. Cross has handcrafted a numbered edition of leaves that will be used throughout the travels of New Art in Austin.
Untitled (Public Opinion), 1991 by Felix Gonzalez-Torres at the Guggenheim.
He looks to examples in recent art like that of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, who invited visitors to participate in the life of artworks by taking a candy or an offset print as a gift or memento. Each of the tree’s leaves will be renewed in distinct “seasons” or “cycles” of its life in each of the exhibition venues, and visitors will be encouraged to take a single Post-itÂ® leaf as a memento of this exhibition. At times, that may leave the painted tree barren of its leaves, echoing the ephemerality of nature and of aesthetic experiences alike.
An audience member grabbing a leaf.
One might also ponder the ephemeral nature of technologies that appear indispensible because of their ubiquity. How often does one stop to consider how recently the omnipresent Post-it noteÂ® was invented? How did businesses operate without them? How did memory operate without the act of posting adhesive-backed colored slips of paper? Cross’s art asks viewers to consider the ephemerality built into a culture of novelty and of rising tides of expectations, whether that be the culture of art, commerce, science, or technology.
Postgraduate studies at the famed Pont-Aven School of Contemporary Art in France were instrumental in Cross’s early artistic development, and built upon foundations he established as a student at Trinity University in San Antonio. His studies at Trinity prepared him to work in the field of communications design. Design experience has had direct and indirect impact on his broader art. He has worked with modular design elements, using mass-produced craft toys to create a typeface that he tested on a hand-built printing press, then transferred to digital form. His computer-based design work has liberated him to perceive the material nature of utilitarian objects that might be overlooked in their daily use.
Video documentation of Reminder, 2005-2006 at Galveston Arts Center
“I use computers so much that most office supplies are just ‘stuff’ to me,” he remarks, discussing his fascination with these supplies’ potential as the materials from which art can be made. 4 Despite seeing the roles for computers within his tool kit as designer and artist, Cross ventures that “I don’t think visual art is what computers do best. I think conceptual art works best as social currency among people.” 5 A heritage of conceptual art is one of the many reminders to which the title of Cross’s work points. Viewers of New Art in Austin may leave the exhibition with their own reminders of this new season of artists, carrying a piece of Cross’s Reminder with them as they go.
tags: art, austin, texas, sculpture, ephemeral