“Microgaphia,” Paintings by Hugh Hales-Tooke at Meg Cohen Design Shop

Observed in a cozy SoHo boutique, the paintings of Hugh Hales-Tooke may be mistaken for decorative works with a certain historical bent. Look more closely. Taken out of this comfortable context, or on the wall of his studio, the paintings immediately resonate with meaning, both personal to the artist and specifically relating to the Enlightenment. Primarily a photographer, Hales-Tooke has drawn college buildings of Robert Hooke and Christopher Wren as a relevant inquiry into science versus art and the possibly grey areas in between. The show is titled Micrographia, Three Buildings of The Age of Reason. This refers to Hooke’s amazing 1664 book about microscopic animals and magnification using lenses. Hooke apparently coined the topical term, “cell.” This fascinating project started in 1989 when the artist inadvertently made his first image of the Wren Library at Trinity College. It took a while before Hales-Tooke realized fully his personal connection to the buildings in Cambridge, England, where he was brought up.

How do these the studies of Enlightenment architects relate to an individual? Partly because the paintings are a link in a conceptual chain. At first, the interest is intuitive. Then, it become more technical. The paintings (aka buildings) plot points in an investigation tying together Hales-Tooke’s family history with the edifices he duplicates. He traces his lineage back through the Petyr family line to Elizabethan times. Lord Petyr was a Catholic after the unfortunate dissolution of the monasteries, a precarious position for a man of state. But how is this investigation of family trees relevant to architecture from the Age of Reason? There’s the rub. We have to work it out. It could be that family DNA is related to the proliferation of ideas through history. At the end of the process, Hales-Tooke has presented the buildings denuded of any fanciful perspective and context – no light, shade, or place – so the façade faces the viewer without blanching, much like architectural elevations. Full frontal nudity, you might say. The series conveys myriad questions and serves as proof of the initial process. By illustrating the famous buildings in such a way, Hales-Tooke implies a cultural lineage which is wound tightly, like cloth around a wire: the buildings are neo-classical, but with added elements of the period that embody the thought of the time.

The subject could become a doctoral thesis. The Age of Reason was not just about science, but an attempt to remove art from science. There was also some Medievil psuedo-science bordering on Black Magic. (I must be thinking of William Blake and the architect Hawksmoor, Wren’s eccentric student! He imagined that the Ancients filled the skies with human-shaped constellations for a good reason.) These stories are writ large in mythic form so we can apply the facts later, if we fancy. Perhaps the whole of the Enlightenment is about “cosmic” wisdom being strained through the eyes of burgeoning science? It’s amazing what you can discover in a tasteful, unassuming shop in SoHo.

Full disclosure: The author admits he knows the methods and preoccupations of Mr. Hales-Tooke. They both studied at Syracuse University during the fermented Eighties and played loudly in a local band.

The Micrographia exhibition closed November 5. Visit the Meg Cohen Design Shop’s Facebook page for up to date information on current and upcoming shows.

Jennifer Lipman-Bartel
Jennifer Lipman-Bartel
Diane Deery Richards
Diane Deery Richards
I enjoy the manipulation of materials and how process itself contributes to the life and form of the image. Dramatic, gestural lines describe the play of light and wind across the water, while softer marks add life to the slow movement of rain laden clouds. Areas of sky, water, and land are knit together with brushstrokes to represent their seamless interaction under the common conditions of weather and time. In my acid etched tin pieces, areas of watery marks are left visible to suggest the underlying layers of the landscape. I  do not strive to recreate the particulars of  places that inspire me, but rather the timelessness of the elements of light, weather, and geometries that inform them. My work is not about how the landscape looks as much as about how the landscape makes me feel. I try to create an image that allows the viewer to engage with it in such a way as to invite similar introspection.
Kirby Fredendall
Kirby Fredendall

I enjoy the manipulation of materials and how process itself contributes to the life and form of the image. Dramatic, gestural…

I enjoy the manipulation of materials and how process itself contributes to the life and form of the image. Dramatic, gestural lines describe the play of light and wind across the water, while softer marks…

I enjoy the manipulation of materials and how process itself contributes to the life and form of the image. Dramatic, gestural lines describe the play of light and wind across the water, while softer marks add life to the…

Won Choi's sculptural forms grow out of the human figure, costume and the natural landscape, often merging together to reveal spiritual meaning, something she realized through meditating on the five Natural Elements.
Won Choi
Won Choi

Won Choi's sculptural forms grow out of the human figure, costume and the natural landscape, often merging together to reveal…

Won Choi's sculptural forms grow out of the human figure, costume and the natural landscape, often merging together to reveal spiritual meaning, something she realized through meditating on the five Natural…

Won Choi's sculptural forms grow out of the human figure, costume and the natural landscape, often merging together to reveal spiritual meaning, something she realized through meditating on the five Natural Elements.…

Mindy Flexer makes magical realist, figurative, oil paintings. She uses observation and invention to explore identity and family relationships, and the way personal history resides within the larger arc of time. Her current work is about our extraordinary historical moment, when climate crisis threatens all life on earth, and climate justice offers the possibility of global transformation to a just and equitable world. Her visual language of a seamless world of people, animals, and place, is the language of the interconnection of all life on earth. Flexer’s paintings speak about climate in a language personal enough for people to hear it. Her goal is to inspire people to action. She hopes to connect people to themselves and each other, so each person can find their place in the mass movement necessary to create a sustainable future. In this way, she sees her paintings aspart of the great web of healing she deeply believes can save our planet.
Mindy Flexer
Mindy Flexer

Mindy Flexer makes magical realist, figurative, oil paintings. She uses observation and invention to explore identity and…

Mindy Flexer makes magical realist, figurative, oil paintings. She uses observation and invention to explore identity and family relationships, and the way personal history resides within the larger arc…

Mindy Flexer makes magical realist, figurative, oil paintings. She uses observation and invention to explore identity and family relationships, and the way personal history resides within the larger arc of time. Her current…

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