The works of Jim Hodges tell of the beauty, fragility and loss, but also care and love, he saw as a gay Roman Catholic living in the Aids war zone that was New York city in the 1980s.
At his first exhibition in Asia, Love Power, at Massimo De Carlo in Central, which runs until October 31, five new works illustrate Hodges’ signature mix of materials. All created this year, they are a continuation of a career spanning more than three decades.
The exhibition starts with three striking gold leaf diptychs – Door Of Was, From The Door Of Was (Through) and All Days As One – which form a loose trilogy.
Smooth lines in the black and white Door Of Was could be water moving or clouds passing – elements from looking at nature, said gallery director Claudia Albertini. The sides facing each other in the gap between two canvases are covered with uneven gold leaf. Albertini interprets this work as the artist’s struggle with who he was early in his career, with the gap like a shiny crack in the door to nature.
After graduating with a masters of fine arts in painting from the Pratt Institute in New York in 1986, Hodges lost interest in painting and removed most colors from his art – a shift that coincided with his coming out.
He said in the catalog interview that he was “lost in the hugeness of painting.” He was also changing, as was the subculture he was now a part of. Both were under threat.
From The Door Of Was (Through) features more gold leaf, which covers the heavy black brushstrokes. The almost symmetrical canvases are a testament to his skill, Albertini said. “Gold leaf is near impossible to make perfect because of its fragility.”
To Hodges, this fragile but tough material represents strength. In All Days As One, a gold and white diptych hung in a corner to imitate a 90-degree reflection, the gold layer is so bright that the painting is reflected on the floor, like flickering lights in a club.
It works with When We Are Ready, And We Are to recreate the effect of bar lighting on the ground. Reminiscent of a camouflage painting, the latter work was created by Hodges inlaying hand-cut acrylic boards on canvas.
The works hint at concerns for the gay community – which can also be seen in some of his installations. Around 1991, he installed Untitled (Gate), an 80-square-foot room blocked by a metal gate built of a spiderweb of heavy chains and delicate necklaces.
Spiderwebs reveal a sense of loss to Hodges, as is evident in Can’t You See.
Hung in the corner and consisting of 17 spiderwebs, it is made with 24-karat gold-plated brass and matte black brass chains.
These three layers of spiderwebs represent fragile, untouchable beauty, said Albertini.
“We are attracted to the golden particles at the back, but can’t get closer because it has the black matter above.”
To appreciate Hodges’ art, she said, you have to think in terms of metaphors and allusions. “His art didn’t come from conceptual works. Instead, it is very emotional.”
(This article was published at The Standard on October 9, 2020: Weekend Glitz: Caught in a web )