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BLUE RAINBOW - 2013
Littlejohn Contemporary is pleased to announce an exhibition of recent
work by New York artist Valerie Hammond. A prolific sculptor and
printmaker, Hammond maintains a fluid artistic practice,
distinguishable for her deft interaction with different mediums.
However, the tangibility of her materials and processes are subtly
undermined by the poetic nature of her imagery. The work in this
exhibition, which includes a new series of drawings, a sculptural
paper installation, and a multi-paneled artistís book, revolves around
the theme of memory and the influence of the past on everyday experience.
The majority of Hammondís recent drawings were made this summer, while
at the Cill Rialiag Artistís Residency in Ballinskelligs, Ireland, an
area heavy with Irish "Piseóg", or superstition. Hammond is fascinated
by stories which blur reality; her work plays with the dichotomy between
what is seen and the sensation it provokes. One Irish belief, told to
Hammond during her stay, resonated with her: upon death, oneís soul
resides in the body of a hare so that it can attend to unfinished
business or visit loved ones. Hammondís daily walks were punctuated by
sightings of these hares. Silent and still, they fearlessly returned her
gaze, penetrating the hushed gulf between human and animal, as if
accessing a timeless, otherworldly realm. Hammondís drawings convey a
similar sensation. For her, they become talismanic, serving as
manifestations of visual memory.
A large-scale work in the exhibition, titled Blue Rainbow, is more
abstract but similarly evocative. Arranged in a grid, several sheets
of Japanese paper have been variously printed in indigo blue ink,
using a stencil of hole-punches, and pierced with specially-made,
glass-orbed hatpins, which dot the piece with reflective light.
The result is a minimalist night sky, tactile and airy in its
materiality, bordered at the bottom by a printed rainbow. Skewing
the modernist grid towards the celestial and ephemeral, Hammondís
piece both references the larger scope of art history and serves as
a roadmap to her artistic process; Blue Rainbow is assembled on-site,
providing a more intimate view of her methodology.
Hammondís recent artistís book, Substance of a Dream, 2012, made in
a small, variable edition of eight, pays homage to her dreams.
Constructed accordion-style, the book can be arranged in different
sculptural configurations, an important aspect for Hammond. She has
long been inspired by art works of this nature Ė the idea of
ďportable sculptureĒ Ė like Duchampís BoÓte-en-valise and the
surreal shadow boxes of Joseph Cornell. Visually stunning, Hammondís
book is composed of images digitally printed from her daily
sketchbooks and further hand-worked with drawing and painting.
Each page supports a floating paper head, laser-cut with the
recollection of an intensely vivid dream, which falls gently
forward when the book is opened. The cut-out letters produce a
lacey, layered transparency between pages; when lit, the words are
transposed to the bookís pedestal. Interestingly, the text is more
readable as shadow, echoing the dreamís origins in the dim, enigmatic
recesses of the mind. Evocative of many associations, from Freudian
psychology to surrealismís appropriation of dream-like imagery,
Hammondís book, like much of her work, is a physical ode to the
navigation of memory and emotional symbolism within the elusive
paths of the unconscious.
- Gallery Press Release for exhibition, Blue Rainbow, 2013
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Valerie Hammond has always been drawn to places and objects
that are full of mystery. The expressive and devotional qualities
of church shrines, ex-votos, and Asian art ranging from Tibetan
medical drawings to Buddhist sculptures have served as inspiration
for the artist. As spiritual objects, they possess the ability to
impart on the viewer a sense of enchantment grounded by human
connectivity, and this offering of transformation echoes Hammond's
desire to record both the tangible and elusive aspects of the human
condition in her work.
Valerie Hammond was born in Santa Maria, California. She received
her MFA from the University of California at Berkeley, where she was
awarded the Eisner Award. Upon graduation she moved to New York City
and subsequently, was appointed to her first teaching position through
the Cleveland Institute of Art in Lacoste, France. She lived in France
on and off for the next three years. Upon returning to New York, she
began teaching inner city school children art part time through the
Studio in a School program. Hammond has taught printmaking at Columbia
University, New York University, the Yale Norfolk Program; drawing at
Cooper Union School of Art, and has been a visiting art critic at RISD.
She has had exhibitions in Madrid, New Zealand, New Delhi, and
throughout the United States.
As an artist I have found that process is a fundamental part of my work.
In practice this means that I might have ideas about where my work is
going, but often the physical process of the work informs what actually
happens in my studio. I am interested in evoking sensation and making
work which is corporeal in nature. While the figures and portraits may
begin to point towards or suggest sentiment, it is important to me that
the work is not sentimental but experiential.
Growing up in a small agricultural community in California, my exposure
to cultural institutions was limited, at best. I have always been drawn
to places and objects that are full of mystery. Some of my most
significant visual influences were images I saw in church. While the
religious aspect of my church experience was less pressing, the visual
cues at church were what kept my attention. I am fascinated by shrines
and ex-votos-devotional votive objects that families make to show love
and respect. These objects inspire the type of physical intimacy that
holds my artistic practice. Asian art is also a strong influence on my
work. From Tibetan medical drawings to Buddhist sculptures, I find
myself looking to ancient forms for inspiration. Gesture often plays a
most prominent role for these artists-as it does for me-whether it plays
out in a small aspect of the image or is its essence, as with the images
Layering is another essential aspect of my work. Whether this is seen
or perceived as physical or contextual, my interest is in combining the
literal and emotional qualities that are evoked through the physical
process of layering. I begin by collecting ferns and other organic
materials, transforming them through drawing and the printmaking process,
creating images that marry the ferns with images of the body. These
images reflect the uniqueness of individual hands, as well as reveal
the tracing of the spirit. The process, in which the image itself is
submerged in a tray of heated wax, metaphorically removes the image
from the world of the living but paradoxically preserves it indefinitely.
The images act as mechanisms to stop time-to document a moment in a person
life-an open meditation on portraiture.
- Valerie Hammond , 2011
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Beijing Inside-Out Art Museum - "DRAW: MAPPING MADNESS" exhibition
In Pursuit of Wonder opens at Studio's 1 East 53rd Street Gallery
The Dr. Oliver Bronson House - "Three Artists at the Dr. Oliver Bronson House"
Artfully Haunted Hudson House Features Kiki Smith, Seton Smith, Valerie Hammond
"Streaming Spirits: New Prints by Valerie Hammond and Kiki Smith" at SCAD Lacoste