Jim Hodges

Jim Hodges loves colored paper and pencils, ceramic and plastic wall sockets, wood and metal panels, cheap scarves, light bulbs, metal chains, and mirrors. At the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, wall-based constructions made from these materials and many others fill two enormous galleries.

In the first room, the white, blue, and green lights of With, 1999, the reds, pinks, and whites of Ahhhh, 2000, and the various blinking bulbs of the two-part Ultimate Joy, 2001, are reflected in the shattered mirror of Untitled (near and far), 2002. Entering the second room requires walking between the parts of Into out of red, 2005, a diptych wall drawing executed by Hodges’s assistant Patrick Evans in collaboration with students from three local art schools. Once through, visitors are confronted with this (from ordinary life), 1999, a revolving rectangular mirror; on we go, 1996, a spider web made of pins and metal chain; With the Wind, 1997, a construction of layered scarves and silk flowers; As close as I can get, 1998, a large square field pieced together from color chips; and Into Everything, 2002, a perspectival arrangement of brightly colored paper. There are no conventional paintings or traditional drawings in the exhibition, though the cut paper and tissue in the delicate Overlaps under there, 1999, does have a painterly look.

A virtuoso bricoleur, Hodges uses extremely varied materials to retell the history of modernism in his own terms. He restages pointillism in his lightbulb sculptures; evokes Cubist collage in Untitled (Landscape VI), 2000–2001; and plays with Surrealist themes in on we go and Spinning Eyes, 1998. He also references Michelangelo Pistoletto in Folding (into a greater world), 1998, which is made from small, cut pieces of mirror, and Oh, forever, 2001, which is constructed of aluminum foil. The historical allusion of his digital print a small ending, 2001, is less clear. But the nods to Robert Rauschenberg’s hanging veils, Ellsworth Kelly’s paintings, and Dan Flavin’s light sculptures are clearly visible. Hodges’s excision of leaf shapes from a photograph of a tree to reveal the white paper underneath in In this place where we meet, 2004, seems to allude to contemporary photography, and the site-specific Into out of red evokes Sol LeWitt.

Describing Hodges’s exhibition by identifying his references can make him seem like an academic appropriationist. On the contrary, he is an entirely intuitive artist who knows enough about modernism to avoid mere pastiche. He makes everything in a style that is unmistakably his own, a remarkable achievement for someone whose many historical interests are so far-reaching. In allowing us to see how handsome very banal materials can be and what a wealth of historical allusions they may contain, he appears to be a lover of classic arte povera who translates that style into a distinctively American artistic idiom. Hodges is amazingly light-footed: Revealing in his titles an essentially romantic sensibility, his art demonstrates a powerful drive to find poetry in the everyday.

David Carrier