Critics’ Picks

William Hunt, A Gesture You Can’t Help but Make, 2010, digital print, 35 1/2 x 23 1/2".

William Hunt, A Gesture You Can’t Help but Make, 2010, digital print, 35 1/2 x 23 1/2".

Los Angeles

William Hunt

Ibid Gallery | Los Angeles
670 S Anderson Street
January 24–March 21, 2015

I Had to Stop Because I Was Scared, says the title of a 2014 collage in William Hunt’'s Los Angeles debut—too scared, it seems, to cover more than a thin scoop of the paper with black—afraid to reach the finish. Not so in the show’s centerpiece, the video Still Yourself and Calm Your Boots, 2014. From a dashboard view, we see the artist in macho racecar restraints, singing in relentless slow motion as he drives toward an explosion. The car jumps back to the starting line. Another interior angle, this time spun slightly faster; we’re not sure what happened, only that it’ll happen again—at somewhere around nine seconds, according to the time code—or one hundred meters. Another angle: “Waa-aa-tch out, / you don’'t expect me / to driiiiiive so fast,” he sings—one hundred meters to the wall, plowing a little sedan full of white paint and cameras into a stack of Jersey barriers.

The film, claim the opening titles, comes down to one image—likely this sinewy blast of brilliant white paint skeining through the air—perfectly prolonged, lit to just below blown-out, abstractly burning.

The paint-swaddled Hunt toddles from the wreck, climbs the barriers, and is hit in slow succession by four sad puffs of silver confetti—which sticks here and there to the wet paint like pitiful shards of self-reflection. As with the word “bathos,” which here might smash into cliché or yet transcend into something sweetly accurate, so with the film’s excruciating a cappella conclusion: “But I’m / playing the go-oo-oat”—“goat” here a stand-in for “artist.” Why so much post-coital weeping over heroic modernism at this late stage? For days afterward, the artist’s songs rebound like a skull in a loose helmet, hoping for heartbreak or breakthrough.