The Yard at Bryant Park
510 5th Ave, New York, NY 10036
Opening Reception: December 4, 6:00-8:00PM
Affect, Color, Negative Space
by Hovey Brock
Alexandra Hammond and Henning Haupt make artworks with powerful affective impacts. They accomplish this through the interaction of color and negative space around and within architecture. Hammond’s “Myriorama” series takes a direct approach with representational images of open space around architectural structures and their inhabitants, be they vegetal, animal, or human. The series’ name comes from a 19th century game where players could assemble and reassemble cards of landscapes in different combinations to create new scenes. Hammond similarly plays with her landscape panels, rearranging them in different configurations whenever she shows them.
For Affect, Color, Negative Space, Hammond creates a tableau out of four panels. In Hotel Balcony, 2017, we see a distant figure, possibly nude, on the balcony of a high rise. Dog, 2017, presents a dog standing on a white platform. In the remaining two untitled paintings, both from 2017, we see a close-up of some monocotyledon in one image, and the top of what looks like a grass hut in the other. Taken together, these images suggest some tourist destination, as the title Hotel Balcony suggests. What dominates and ties these images together is negative space, a blue sky whose intensity feels oppressive rather than refreshing. This affect lends added tension to the awkwardly cropped figures in each panel. Images we might mistake at first for illustrations to some vacation travelogue take on an ironic edge as another failed Eden.
Where Hammond investigates the fraught ways we idealize nature, Haupt recreates our felt experience of space through the lens of color. The negative space in Haupt’s case is the surface that he paints on. Haupt, trained as an architect and a painter, relies on gesture to replicate the internal experience of moving through an enclosure. The sides of the support stand in as the walls to the structure, which guide the body’s movement through that space. Grouping in a Pale World, 2017, from his series The Journey of Magenta, weaves a complex sequence of gestures coalescing into skeins of magenta and green, which dissolve on the lower left, or split off into smaller gestures at lower right. Entering the space from the top of the support is yet another ball that appears to be moving down and to the left. The febrile lines that Haupt loops between the color balls guide the movements of our eyes throughout the composition.
The choreography Haupt suggests through his shapes and lines reads as a time-lapse photograph of people occupying a room. The dense color balls force our eyes to slow down our visual sweep. They also contrast with the luminous negative space, which gradually claims our attention after we have made multiple passes across the surface. The experience is similar to how we gradually become aware of the space within a room as we move through it. In Grouping in a Pale World, the affect is not so much a mood, as in Hammond’s work, but a bodily awareness found in the pit of the stomach rather than in the mind’s eye. Hammond’s work has a narrative thrust that draws on implied literary sources, which add a complex referential layer. Haupt recreates a synthetic experience of the body within a space through an equally complex orchestration of formal devices. Pursuing very different goals, Hammond and Haupt invoke the space through and around architecture to reach them, and rely on the power of color to call out our feelings as we look on.