Sunday, February 01, 2009

Jason Hackenwerth lecture/opening

It was refreshing to see that Jason Hackenwerth, who uses balloons to make large and colorful sculptures, saves the hot air for his artwork.

During his lecture on Jan. 30 at Herron, Hackenwerth gave a good-sized 4 p.m. audience the quick and entertaining story of his recent rise to art fame. We learned how he got his humble start making balloon animals for his mom who worked as a clown when they lived in a mobile home. Later, when struggling as an artist using traditional approaches, he continued twisting dogs and swords to sell on the street as a way to get by. Then he began doing covert installations in subway stations before moving on to make the kind of bold, sea-creature looking sculptures you can see hanging at Herron now. Along the way, Hackenwerth also made wearable sculptures -- some of them hilariously sexual in nature -- and went around the world entertaining/bugging people in them. He has videos of this on his website.

Hackenwerth was down-to-earth and engaging during the lecture, refraining from intellectualizing his work much at all. Basically, he told the audience, he makes his creatures because they don't exist in the world and he wishes they did. He makes them because he likes how they look. For him, it's not about the idea behind the work, it's about visual excitement and fun. He said he doesn't like how artists spend so much energy talking about or writing about their work and not really making anything. That, he said is talking or writing, not art making. This is welcome approach in a post post-modernist time when art is often only about ideas, offering little that's pleasing on a physical level and often leaving the audience out of the loop.

Still, Hackenwerth's work is conceptually interesting because he uses balloons -- a material that isn't traditional, precious or durable. While he can preserve the work in photographs, the real thing wrinkles, deflates and is gone. Sort of like the rest of us.

Hackenwerth is sharing the gallery space with Herron grad David Bowen. I'm sure we'll write about Bowen's excellent kinetic work here at some point before or following his lecture at noon on Tuesday, February 3 at Herron. The show is up until March 7. Details are here.

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