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Eve Andrée Laramée, Jim Hodges
by Jane Hart

Eve Andrée Laramée, "Cellular Memories" 1996

In her recent site-specific installation entitled "Cellular Memories," Eve Andrée Laramée presented a major mixed media piece which addressed aspects of the physiology of the human body and how they are correspondingly aligned with, and attuned to, the most primordial of earthly origins--the sea. In this large scale work, as has been the case with many of her numerous multi-media installations done over the last several years, Laramée combined elements of science, metaphysics and a highly refined visual aesthetic, to create an emotionally stirring and deeply thought-provoking inquiry into the nature of matter and being. The artist explores this amorphous realm in terms of the phenomena which influence the ebb and flow of existence--not only in human terms, but in relation to those which comprise other forms of life as well.

Laramée, who has lived for several years in New York, made a return trip last year to San Diego (She graduated in 1978 from San Diego State University, where this exhibition was held). In revisiting the area, she was struck with the realization that the city is located between two vast bodies of salt water: the Pacific Ocean on the coast and the Salton Sea, located inland. This geological fact is a point of particular importance to Laramée, since in addition to an array of other organic materials, salt has served as a principle element in much of her work over the past 15 years, not insignificantly, for its multiplicity of symbolic and practical references as a measure of commerce, a source of healing and a signifier of transformation, among its many other meanings. Another noteworthy discovery the artist recently learned of, pertains to scientific evidence which reveals that due to the high degree of salt contained within each, the chemical compositions of both sea water and human blood are essentially identical. The surprising and seemingly incongruous actuality of these substances having a correlation, provides the engaging conceptual underpinning for this intensely affecting work.

At the entrance to the exhibition area stood an imposing red wall which fully obscured the installed sculptural work within in the next room. Rounding the partition to the main gallery, one encountered a startling vision of two massive, perfectly parallel rows of sea salt laid out in mounds approximately 30 feet in length and over a couple of feet in height and width. Suspended evenly above the jagged salt piles, were two identical configurations of several inverted glass beakers hung in a straight line from the ceiling by gleaming metal supports. These starkly clinical flasks were filled with red wine which flowed out into a tangled network of clear plastic tubing attached to the bottles in a fashion akin to an intravenous drip. Hundreds of feet of intricately conjoined arteries cascaded onto the salt, at various random points allowing the deep blood-red fluid to seep out onto the pristine sparkling white crystals.

The juxtaposition of precision and chaos embodied simultaneously within the assembled structure of the overall piece created an environment which caused an unsettling awareness of life's fleeting surge and the ephemeral nature of reality, as containment became disbursement, rupture and then evaporation. The salt--once an active part of the ocean teeming with biological complexity and tidal shifts--here, became isolated to remain static in its most elemental state. The fruitful, spirited essence of the wine, when released from it's vessel, slowly decomposed into a residue of mere dust-- nothing more than a memory to be witnessed only by its stain upon the salt. While Laramée has often poignantly alluded to the ambiguous spheres where scientific fact and mysticism merge, this work, more tellingly perhaps than any of her others to date, confronts the profound and puzzling attributes of the life force that fuels all of nature.

In an interesting counterpoint to Laramée's usage of natural organic elements to explore the less tangible aspects of existence, Jim Hodges utilized a contrasting group of materials, that, in their artifice, approximate nature, but which similarly belie a sense of the more transcendental states of awareness and being. In his recent one-man exhibition enigmatically titled "Yes," at Marc Foxx Gallery, Hodges created a most enticing setting, fully commanding the spartan space with a grouping of just three glisteningly beautiful works done in a variety of approaches.

The highly engaging centerpiece of the show was a sweeping, hand-sewn work made of lusciously colored silk flowers in nearly every conceivable hue. Their assorted petals seemed to just barely cling together as they hung from ceiling to floor like a regal curtain, swaying gently from the breeze which wafted into the gallery from the open doorway. Although rococo in its elaborate splendor, this piece maintained, nonetheless, an aura of minimal elegance. This stunning floral work entitled in blue, also served, along with the other pieces in the show, as a homage of sorts to Hodge's departed friend Felix Gonzalez Torres, who passed away during this last year. The potent symbolism inherent within this tapestry/sculpture was evidenced by the unbounded accumulation and captivity of such implied transitory beauty. The effect the work imparted was at once both calming and mournfully moving--a testimony to life's bountiful pageantry fading into funerary solemnity.

Tucked away in a corner of the gallery was one of Hodge's signature spider web pieces, made of finely linked, silvery metal chain. This particular work, entitled on we go, was far more dense and complex than those of this sort he customarily creates, in that it displayed several impenetrable layers of web upon web, rather than a single network of strands, as if fortifying itself to ward off its own inevitable decay. Far from somber, however, the brilliant shimmering quality of the myriad interwoven filaments retained an air of delicacy and optimism to the piece, again reflecting both the fragility and fortitude inherent in life's infinite duality, penetrating everything known to our collective experience.

The third and final piece in the show was a wall drawing entitled these three, which Hodges referred to as "portraits" of different family members. The images were made up of three overlapping sets of concentric circles, hand-drawn in moody, muted tones of green, purple and blue. No trace of any visage was evident, but the assumed suggestion was that these images equated auras or energy fields recorded to impart the presence of those represented. While visually speaking this was the least seductive of the works on view, the lingering impression of its implication, in certain respects made this the most intriguing of concepts Hodges chose to pursue.

The poetically articulate content of each of these distinctly different pieces combined, offered an affirmative articulation expressing the essentiality of balance within the human experience. What Hodges exalts is our innate desire to possess and experience beauty and the fullness of life, while simultaneously exposing our compelling need to release with acceptance and dignity, that which ceases to be vital.

Jane Hart,

Los Angeles, California
1996

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