New York

Katurah Hutcheson

Kasmin | 293 Tenth Avenue

There are paintings, and photographs as well, too reticent or self-absorbed to offer potential viewers a way in. More like objects than images, they most readily call to mind Maurice Blanchot’s observation that works of art are self-enclosed worlds only “open to those who possess the key,” which is simply “the enjoyment and understanding of a certain taste.” So works like these are accessible after all, at least to a viewer whose taste is for being left free to respond without exactly having been called. Such a taste will handily unlock Katurah Hutcheson’s work, represented at Kasmin by dense, slightly lopsided, almost achromatic paintings; tiny, ghostly, black-and-white photographs; and several different kinds of works on paper. In their material forthrightness the paintings are close at times to those of Manzoni or Ryman, but in Hutcheson’s canvases the singlemindedness of those artists’ whites is replaced by coagulations of one tone within another; even what might be called the host color is more impure than white, for instance, a sort of patinated ivory that emanates pensiveness.

Hutcheson has a curious way of refusing to take responsibility for what ends up on her surfaces, as though stuff just accumulated, drifted around from place to place, piled up, and seeped away. Pieces of fabric or wooden refuse become receptive surfaces for paint that sometimes migrates from work to work, for instance, when half-dried paintings are pressed against one another and then pulled apart. Her work is contained yet messy-looking—processlike without caring to reveal the nature of the process. The exacerbated tactility of the paintings’ surfaces, the paint’s peculiar ways of congealing, of sitting up on a surface or collapsing back into it, are almost embarrassingly corporeal. The fact that a couple of the paintings are predominantly in the flesh color of Band-Aids (Dogwood and Overly Later, both 1999) only heightens the suspicion that within their seeming indifference is imprinted a memory of bodily hurt.

The notion of the imprint or impression is probably the most recurrent feature of this work: Not only have the surfaces of the paintings and works on paper had other surfaces pressed against them, but even the photographs, taken with a child’s toy camera, get at this by seeming to have been brushed or scuffed by light rather than record an object or scene at some distance.

In a dialogue with Rochelle Feinstein published to accompany the joint exhibition of their photographs at Art Resources Transfer, Hutcheson speaks of the light in her photos “destroying” a mundane narrative about all the desultory materials lying around her studio, “and insinuating another,” unspecified one. The images, however, appear to be double exposures of foliage, cobwebs, or shadows and conjure some kind of tenuous southern Gothic atmosphere, like obscure details from a Sally Mann landscape. The point is, “destroying” is really too strong a word—“eroding” would be more like it, or maybe just “distracting from”—because somehow, in both the paintings and the photographs, enough vestiges of reference remain to turn reticence into its own kind of eloquence. The photographs communicate a sensation of blindness, but in a way closer to the perhaps painful experience of vision returning rather than failing, just as the discomfort embodied by the paintings is somehow less akin to the onset of pain than to the dissipation of numbness.

Barry Schwabsky