Aimee C Reed
ARTweek May 2008
Two separate things occurred while I was working on the review of Katina Huston’s recent exhibition ‘Field of Vision’. First I visited an artist who was working on a new series that used photographs of the backs of well known paintings to create new artworks. Jean Baudrillard’s theory of simulacrum, the re-creation of an object based not on the original but of an image of the original should be kept in mind when considering Huston’s ink on Mylar drawings.
Although she is creating a drawings as opposed to an actual object, the fact that Huston has removed the subject directly from her imagery by capturing its shadow, is intriguing. Huston projects an artificial light onto the subject which casts a shadow onto the canvas. She then pours a variety of ink onto the Mylar paper, and waits for the layer to dry before continuing on. By relying on the shadow to recreate the objects form, in the case of ‘Shadow Pair’, a chair, Huston gifts the object a new life. She goes beyond simple depiction of the chair, to the more interesting tension between presence and absence, and a completely new perspective on the object.
Huston has previously worked with the imagery of bicycle rims and it is with this object matter that she is able to add another layer of dimensionality. In works such as ‘Tsunami’ and ‘Dynamo’, Huston seems to have constantly repositioned the light on the rim while simultaneously rotating the Mylar canvas, which results in a kinetic feeling, and adds a sense of motion to what could have easily stopped with static composition.
Huston also incorporates chandeliers into her drawings which brings me to the second occurrence that caused me to re-think Huston’s work. I am not sure if it is because of her handling of the chandelier, but ever since I saw Huston’s drawings, everywhere I turn it seems that more and more artists are using chandeliers, and if so, her take on why it was becoming increasingly popular. Her response was “Chandeliers are the new skulls.” This may be, but Huston’s handling of the chandelier goes beyond any others I have seen. She brings another dimension to depictions like ‘Light and Crystal’. The angle of this drawing draws the viewer close and once there, reveals her depth of technique. To render such detail by pouring ink onto a non-absorbent surface demonstrates not only skill and definite knowledge of the object, but an infinite amount of patience as well.
What was most surprising about Huston’s show at Dolby Chadwick was her completely different body of work in a smaller adjacent gallery. Exhibited for the first time in San Francisco, this group used enamel and discarded human hair obtained from a friend who works in a hair salon. The results, as seen in ‘Tropical Interior’ are seductive patterns not unlike Victorian wallpaper. Beautiful to look at, I found myself struggling to calm the quiet nagging of repulsion that arose from its hair-ness. But this may in fact be what Huston wants to evoke. Simultaneously seductive and repellent. Huston successfully creates a subtly tactile feeling that lingers with the viewer long after they have left the gallery space.