Littlejohn Contemporary Presents Valerie Hammond's BLUE RAINBOW, 11/7-12/7
Littlejohn Contemporary is pleased to announce an exhibition of recent work by New York artist Valerie Hammond. A prolific sculptor and printmaker, Hammond maintains a fluid artistic practice, distinguishable for her deft interaction with different mediums. However, the tangibility of her materials and processes are subtly undermined by the poetic nature of her imagery. The work in this exhibition, which includes a new series of drawings, a sculptural paper installation, and a multi-paneled artist's book, revolves around the theme of memory and the influence of the past on everyday experience.
The majority of Hammond's recent drawings were made this summer, while at the Cill Rialiag Artist's Residency in Ballinskelligs, Ireland, an area heavy with Irish "piseog," or superstition. Hammond is fascinated by stories which blur reality; her work plays with the dichotomy between what is seen and the sensation it provokes. One Irish belief, told to Hammond during her stay, resonated with her: upon death, one's soul resides in the body of a hare so that it can attend to unfinished business or visit loved ones. Hammond's daily walks were punctuated by sightings of these hares. Silent and still, they fearlessly returned her gaze, penetrating the hushed gulf between human and animal, as if accessing a timeless, otherworldly realm. Hammond's drawings convey a similar sensation. For her, they become talismanic, serving as manifestations of visual memory.
A large-scale work in the exhibition, titled Blue Rainbow, is more abstract but similarly evocative. Arranged in a grid, several sheets of Japanese paper have been variously printed in indigo blue ink, using a stencil of hole-punches, and pierced with specially-made, glass-orbed hatpins, which dot the piece with reflective light. The result is a minimalist night sky, tactile and airy in its materiality, bordered at the bottom by a printed rainbow. Skewing the modernist grid towards the celestial and ephemeral, Hammond's piece both references the larger scope of art history and serves as a roadmap to her artistic process; Blue Rainbow is assembled on-site, providing a more intimate view of her methodology.
Hammond's recent artist's book, Substance of a Dream, 2012, made in a small, variable edition of eight, pays homage to her dreams. Constructed accordion-style, the book can be arranged in different sculptural configurations, an important aspect for Hammond. She has long been inspired by art works of this nature - the idea of "portable sculpture" - like Duchamp's Boîte-en-valise and the surreal shadow boxes of Joseph Cornell. Visually stunning, Hammond's book is composed of images digitally printed from her daily sketchbooks and further hand-worked with drawing and painting. Each page supports a floating paper head, laser-cut with the recollection of an intensely vivid dream, which falls gently forward when the book is opened. The cut-out letters produce a lacey, layered transparency between pages; when lit, the words are transposed to the book's pedestal. Interestingly, the text is more readable as shadow, echoing the dream's origins in the dim, enigmatic recesses of the mind. Evocative of many associations, from Freudian psychology to surrealism's appropriation of dream-like imagery, Hammond's book, like much of her work, is a physical ode to the navigation of memory and emotional symbolism within the elusive paths of the unconscious.