Leslie Sacks Contemporary is pleased to announce an exhibition of works by Charles Christopher Hill, tracking the artist’s trajectory from his 1970s “stitch” pieces to his most recent paintings. The title “…and Group Show” alludes to the disparate aesthetics and techniques Hill has employed over the span of forty years, leaving the impression that this is the work of multiple artists. Hill is fresh off of participating in four Pacific Standard Time shows, each of which highlighted a different era in his career. The exhibitions took place at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena; Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach; and the Frederick Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University.
Charles Christopher Hill was a member of a burgeoning art scene in 1970s Los Angeles. He became known for collaged tapestries, consisting of stitched fabric and newspaper bits, which were painted and then distressed through various means – sometimes buried, immersed in the ocean, or blasted with water at a car wash. Texture and pattern were allowed to emerge organically in these works; the focus on surface, incorporation of chance, and the idea of process would become recurring themes in Hill’s work.
In the 1980s, Hill moved into painting on canvas. Still concerned with surface, but needing an image, Hill turned to simplified symbols – a plus and minus sign against a checkerboard background – as a means to again explore texture and process. In these works, layers of paint are built up and then ground down, so that previous coats peek through in stratified streaks. They are paintings that in many ways look like tapestries.
In the early 1990s, Hill attended an exhibition of African textiles in Paris and was struck by the symbols of a Kuba cloth from Zaire. Taking its strong, minimal shapes as a starting point, he created works on canvas that were stitched with layers of fabric and newsprint, then painted over with coats of acrylic and varnish that were built up into a thick, matte glaze. The tactile quality of the work and the translucent varnish lend visibility to underlying paint layers, once again revealing the process the piece has endured to reach its final state.
Later works of the 1990s continued to find their genesis in basic symbols, be it stripes from Marcel Duchamp’s assemblage 3 Stoppages Etalon, 1913-1914, or spirals from Claude Mellan’s 17th century engraving, The Sudarium. During the summer of 2000, Hill was in the Spanish countryside when he discovered the Cueva Prehistorica Del Pindal, a site of cave drawings from 17,000 BC. Over the next few years, he would research and visit several similar sites in Spain, again using the imagery of dots and dashes as the basis for his paintings, which continued to feature multiple layers of paint and matte varnish.
Hill’s latest body of work maintains a deceptively minimal aesthetic. Painted bands are built up across his canvases in a full spectrum of color then finished with a final application of a dominant and dense red, black or blue. Over fifty layers of acrylic paint and varnish are used, but the matte glaze has been replaced by a lustrous glossy sheen that gives a nod to the Finish Fetish movement. Between the bands, glimpses of previous layers can be seen – yellows and greens and blues that hint again at Hill’s painstaking process. The simplified linearity remains a means to an end, a visual conduit through which Hill is able to explore the ideas of texture, surface, depth and time.
Charles Christopher Hill’s work is included in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Musée des Beaux Arts, Angers, France; and the Total Contemporary Art Museum, Seoul, Korea.
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