Critics’ Picks

View of “Butur,” 2012.

New York

Hunter Reynolds

535 West 22nd Street Third Floor
April 19–May 19, 2012

For nearly three decades, Hunter Reynolds has explored issues of survival, death, and mourning in his work, taking special interest in rituals that address mortality and transformative rejuvenation. Recently he has performed shamanistic fire ceremonies on a sacred Mohawk site in upstate New York. Among felled trees adorned with glitter, beads, and bangles, talismanic offerings are ritualistically burned during these events. The charred pieces that survive have been assembled for Reynolds’s current exhibition, “Butur,” as totems, readorned with glitter, and some carved in a frantic motion, before being shellacked and anthropomorphically stacked.

Butur, Mongolian for “cocoon,” is the title of the central totem, which is surrounded by three smaller totems (all 2011). A 2012 video titled Fire Glitter Totem reveals their joyous and ecstatic creation. In the transfixing eighteen-minute video, the community standing around the bonfire is digitally doubled and multiplied by a mirroring effect, appearing expansive and at times integrated into the conflagration. Ash taken from the smoldering pits is used as a foundation for “masks,” which are made from folding and doubling paint-encrusted glitter like a Rorschach blot. Each mask is named for the constellation under which the ash was burned. Staking a history on the fragility of the body, Reynolds explores mortality in an exultant way, nurturing a congregation around the fire and then transporting that energy into the gallery, where the rich colors of vibrant totemic forms populate a new assembly.