When describing the exhibition, Viso talks about how Hodges is not afraid to work with material that might be seen as kitschy or sentimental. As you walk through the exhibit, you see right away what she is referring to. Fake flowers, pastel scarves artfully arranged, paper cut-outs, and butterflies all signify crafts that are associated with the feminine in popular culture. However, like other artists who emerged in the 1990s -- such as Felix Gonzales-Torres, Kiki Smith, and others -- Viso asserts that Hodges is "challenging ideas of culture," and working against gender norms. Hodges's pieces can thus be seen as a feminist practice with a "radicality that has changed the artistic landscape."
The use of "feminine" materials draws association with Fritz Haeg, another artist recently shown at the Walker, who explores domestic practices such as canning and sewing. Like Haeg, Hodges subverts traditional gender roles, challenging notions of practices associated with masculine or feminine.
Hodges says he has gotten push back at times for engaging in craft and other practices viewed as feminine, but he says for him it has been a kind of liberation. "We are in charge of how we are seen in the world," he says.
Hodges sees "gendered materiality" as a convention, there for us to either accept blindly or question. While he acknowledges that there's a history or tradition of certain things being "accidentally associated with different genders," it's artists' role to change those perceptions.
Hodges's works that play against gender norms feel specifically tied to a time and place. Many of these pieces were created in the 1990s during the AIDS crisis, when the world was much more closeted than it is today. A man meticulously creating an installation made out of flower petals, for example, can be seen in this context as an act of defiance against discrimination of the GLBTQ community.
There's a subtlety of emotion in many of the pieces, played out through the soft colors that Hodges selects, and also through the meticulous craftsmanship the textures he creates. Each work is an act of love, with great care and tenderness used in its making.
There's also plenty of glitter and glam, with mirrors everywhere. One particularly wonderful section leads the audience through a hallway of mirrors and shadows until you get to "the dark gate," a scented, walk-in installation made of a spiral of spikes, created in response to the death of his mother. It's a piece, like a number of others, that forces you to engage not only with the artwork but with the artist, too, as you smell his mother's perfume soaked in the wood and stand inside his emotional hell.
Also included in the exhibition is Hodges's most recent work, Untitled (one day it all comes true)
, an enormous skyscape sewn together from denim. It's really a magnificent sight to behold.
IF YOU GO:
"Jim Hodges: Give More than You Can Take"
February 15 through May 11
Walker Art Center