Friday, September 24, 2010

Jonathan Hammer press release

Jonathan Hammer

On view in the Rebecca Ibel Gallery at Miranova

2 Miranova Place, Suite 150, Columbus OH 43215

October 1 – November 12, 2010

Artist Talk and Reception: Friday, October 1, 5-8 pm

The Rebecca Ibel Gallery is excited to present new work by Jonathan Hammer. The exhibition will include a double-sided leather panel, pastel drawings and a suite of etchings. Inspired both intellectually and aesthetically by Surrealism and Dada, Jonathan Hammer utilizes historic, religious, and artistic events as a crucible for exploring and tracing the filaments of the human condition. Three different bodies of work are represented in the exhibition: Genesis, Ubu Roi, and Kovno. While they have diverse historic underpinnings, the works share the same deep conceptual roots and strong aesthetic appeal.

Genesis 2009 Hand-tooled exotic leathers 34 x 28”

Reminiscent in its construction of ancient religious texts ‘Genesis’ is a double panel, made of hand-tooled exotic skins, that reinterprets specific biblical narratives. The recto side is a complex, highly symbolic narrative that explores what Hammer describes as two tangential themes related to the burial of Sara, and the various ancient legends that arose in connection with the themes. The verso side addresses the relationship between Abraham and his servant Ezekiel, particularly the religious and human implications in manner in which the oath is taken, as Hammer views the incident.

In seven pastels Hammer portrays Ubu King, a persona invented by the Dadaist Alfred Jarry. In the pastels Ubu King appears in an anguished state, imagined variously as a dethroned king, a clown, and a vulnerable artist. Hammer’s focus on duality is particularly evident in the Ubu King series, which depicts a once powerful leader who has been sapped of power and now appears to be no more than an empty toy. Like his Dadaist predecessor, Hammer plays on absurdities and contradictions inherent in everyday life, which have greater political implications.

In a suite of twelve etchings entitled ‘Kovno’, Hammer explores the circumstances surrounding atrocities that occurred in a Lithuanian town during World War II. Tens of thousands of Jewish residents were expelled from their homes and sent to a ghetto before ultimately being impounded under German orders. After the fall of Soviet rule, Jews living in the area were openly slaughtered en masse. Amidst this exhibition of the human capacity for extreme and remorseless violence, an unlikely ally intervened on behalf of those being persecuted. Against direct orders a Japanese diplomat named Chiune Sugihara issued some 2,100 visas to refugees, enabling them to escape to Japan. The Simon Wiesenthal Center estimates that approximately 40,000 descendents of the Jewish refugees are alive due to the actions of Sugihara. In 1984 Israel’s official Holocaust memorial named Sugihara one of the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ in recognition of his humanitarian actions during the war.

The Kovno suite originated as Hammer was preparing for an exhibition of his work at the Lithuanian Art Museum. During his preparations Hammer learned that his Jewish grandparents were from the area, and he shared this discovery with the museum. Evidently shamed by the atrocities that had occurred during World War II, the museum abruptly cancelled the exhibition and severed contact with Hammer. After delving into the history surrounding the atrocities and Sugihara’s actions, Hammer created the Kovno etchings, a body of work that is both intensely personal and unmistakably universal in its import.

Jonathan Hammer was born in Chicago in 1960. He graduated from Bard College and studied bookbinding at the London College of Printing with Romilly Saumerez Smith and Monique Lallier. For 20 years, his work has been included in numerous gallery and museum exhibitions around the world and has been the subject of more than 35 solo. His works are included in many private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Jumex Collection, Mexico City; and the Caldic Collection, Rotterdam. Hammer recently completed a cycle of large sculptures in porcelain with the Bernardaud Foundation in Limoges, France. He is the recipient of numerous grants, including the Swiss Arts Council, Zurich; Art Matters, New York; and Miro Foundation, Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Hammer lives and works in Barcelona and San Francisco. He has been exhibiting with the Rebecca Ibel Gallery since 1996.

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