HOT•BED is pleased to present Now and at the Hour, a group exhibition curated by Anaïs Cooper-Hackman and Orlando Saverino-Loeb, featuring works by Seoul-born Philly-based painter Kay Seohyung Lee, New York-based visual artist Paul Gagner and Washington D.C.-based painter Eric Uhlir. The 37 works in the show represent and respond to the sense of absurdity that permeates every corner of political and social life today.
The artists lean into the chaos and inherent humor of the present moment to make these challenging themes more accessible and bearable, without diluting their serious implications. These works together reinforce the necessity of levity and humor in maintaining hope and continuing through times of hardship. “Now and at the Hour” will be on view from December 4, 2021 – February 19, 2022 with an opening event on December 4th from 6–9pm EST.
Modern life is teeming with contradictions, which create moments of absurdity — absurdity that isn’t always obvious to those involved. In hindsight, the damage — as well as the absurdity — is made plain. It is through this reflection of both the tragedy and the humor of existence that humans have always made sense of the world.
Included in the show is Kay Seohyung Lee’s brutally chaotic “Hellscapes” series, which captures “the bizarre state of communal suffering we’re experiencing.” The richly colored scenes depict crowded tableaus of naked figures (all of whom are meant to represent Lee) and animals embroiled in mayhem. Lee’s sprawling works of gouache on canvas respond to the disturbing uptick in violence against asian people during the pandemic and depict the resulting damage of these hate crimes. “Hellscapes,” Lee says, responds to “our moments of pain – captured, documented, meme-fied, laughed at, monumentalized, worshipped, idolized, romanticized, edited, analyzed, criticized, torn apart, sexualized, ignored, banished, destroyed, over and over again.” Lee will also be showing two quilted tapestry works created in collaboration with her former Penn MFA classmate, Viola Bordon, titled “Baby Blanket (war)” and “Baby Blanket (fight).”
Eric Uhlir also deals with disorder; his works attempt to make sense of the chaos of the present by looking to the past — the history of human interactions with the natural and built environments, and art itself. His series of rich figurative abstract works in oil, flashe, ink, watercolor, and gouache surround contemporary themes of consumption and virtue. Uhlir leverages classical and historical references, deconstructing and recontextualizing them into densely colorful, sensuous scenes that are both appealing and unsettling. He especially focuses on remixing well-known colonial art historical works to encourage viewers to rethink the “heroic” story of America’s revolution and rise. “There’s an ugly side to revolutionary America that we don’t often talk about,” he says. In “The Hill (Diptych)”, for example, Uhlir riffs on “The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775,” by John Trumbull, drawing attention to the role that slaves played in fighting the Revolutionary War, while still being denied their personhood.
Paul Gagner takes a tonally lighter approach to his work, with an emphasis on finding humor in difficult situations, and challenging what he sees as the too-seriousness of traditional art. In response to the pandemic, Gagner created a new series of sculptures and paintings that highlight the strangeness of modern times. The artist, who has primarily worked in two dimensional forms, displays new mixed media sculptures in this show, incorporating elements of wood, foam, aqua resin, fiberglass, aluminum, and acrylic and oil paint. His semi-autobiographical works arise from a psychoanalytic impulse that has him playing both subject and interrogator. By contextualizing the absurdity of our largely self-inflicted contemporary concerns, he highlights the ridiculousness of existence and brings levity to the darkness of our current climate. Pieces like “Sleeping Beauty” and “Fine,” for example, comment on the irony of supposedly rugged, self-reliant men pitching a fit when they couldn’t get a haircut early in the pandemic; Gagner incorporates stereotypical masculine imagery (axes, knives, swords, etc.) to underline their fragility and hypocrisy.
The show’s title, Now and at the Hour, references the Catholic Hail Mary prayer, which is spoken in moments of desperation or death, concluding “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.” “Hail Mary” is also a last ditch play in football. The desire for hope, however desperate, reflects the ethos of these times. Viewers are invited to take a step back and consider the ways in which the tension of society manifests in their own lives. Together the artists present different ways to process the current moment’s disorder, and through their art inspire persistence, resilience, and an urgent bit of hope.
Alongside Now and at the Hour, HOT•BED will be presenting an immersive neon installation titled “Electric Caverns,” by Alissa Eberle in the MICRO•GALLERY. Hand-bent neon glass formed into rainbow stalagmites, stalactites, and cave formations will be suspended from the wall and ceiling. A mirrored floor will reflect the stalagmites and stalactites, emulating an underground lake and creating an otherworldly effect. A red neon sink fixture will “feed” the lake. Inspired by show caves, themed motel rooms, and nostalgia, the piece invites reflection on the eeriness of passing time, psychedelic and paranormal occurrences, and the intersection of humans and nature. The constructed space is designed to exist between dimensions, celebrating and augmenting the strangeness of the natural world. The installation will be on view from December 4, 2021 –– January 8, 2022.
Appointments available here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/214285231897.