New York

Peter Hutchinson

John Gibson Gallery

Peter Hutchinson showed his animate science-fiction landscapes in both scale models and photo-montages at the John Gibson Gallery. In the models, Hutchinson creates three types of encapsulated botanical or chemically self-contained and self-generating environments which flourish inside of hooked test tubes or glass cylinders and are set into fantastically contrasting natural landscapes. Inorganic, decaying, and primitive growths like molds, algae and mosses, or crystal-yielding chemical solutions proliferate within the enclosed tubes, which are surrounded by volcano, desert, or arctic scenes and terrains in the photo-montage projects as well as in the simulated but functioning models. Some of them will eventually he realized in immense full-scale proportions on actual sites which approximate those of the fantastic looking plans. The chemistry and biology of these tiny but complete life cycle environments are carefully worked out by Hutchinson, who seems to be as well versed in plant life as he is in the proportional disjunctions of the classic science-fiction set.

What is especially enjoyable about these impossible looking projects is their wryly humorous juxtaposition and variation of scale and environments: contrasts between the artificial hothouse or test tube naturalism and the incredible but actual geography and ecology of the planned sites (glacial lakes, slopes of inactive volcanoes, mesa-desert turf, etc.) exhibit an originality of visual detailing as well as of a conceptual and formal scheme. I have the feeling that Hutchinson is well aware of his involvement with the picturesque (cf. Tillim’s article in Artforum, December, 1968), as he certainly admits to the fictive charm of his ecological combinations and geological projections. For some reason I find these models and photographs a bit less pretentious than other earthwork proposals and ideal systems speculated on or executed by some of Hutchinson’s colleagues (Smithson, Oppenheim, Heizer, et. al.). That he is content to simply call his showing “landscapes” rather than to dream up some pseudo-sculptural pedigreed misnomer, or to apply a scientistic label to his imagined constructions and visual documents, suggests that perhaps Hutchinson is more realistic about what he is doing.

Emily Wasserman