Hassinger & Clark: Boxes, Combs and Constellations opens at University of Delaware Museums

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Hassinger & Clark: Boxes, Combs and Constellations opens at University of Delaware Museums
Maren Hassinger, Hanging Boxes, 2013 (installation detail). © Maren Hassinger.

NEWARK, DE.- Alchemy is an ancient art concerned with the transformation of physical substances, most notably the transmutation of baser materials into silver or gold. Boxes, Combs and Constellations highlights the visual alchemy of artists Maren Hassinger and Sonya Clark, whose creative agencies turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Hassinger’s primary material is the box, the ordinary commercial box, used as form and metaphor, structure and containment. Created from hundreds of elemental parts, suspended or faceted, Hassinger’s Hanging Boxes and Changing Boxes are playful and provocative, purposeful and precarious. Transforming the entry space of Mechanical Hall Gallery, the paperboard stalactites and miniature cities evoke Rubik’s cubes and skyscraper metropolises, exemplary three-dimensional spaces of constraint and flow. Literal and metaphorical, formal and conceptual, the boxes signal the closed condition as they express Hassinger’s liberatory intents: to get out of the box. Consistent with her oeuvre, the relationship between sculpture and movement is omnipresent and the experience of the work is participatory, around and through the installation.

Artist Sonya Clark works from the premise that hairdressing is the first textile art. Hair is both subject and medium, as are the accouterments of hair care and hair styling, such as combs. Clark transforms combs into carpets and tapestries and hair into line, mass, and asterism—a pattern of stars recognized on Earth's night sky. In Clark’s hands the everyday natures of plastic combs, thread, hair and paper metamorphose into objects—Aqua Allure (2005), installations—Constellation (2012), and suites—Albers Interaction Series (2013) and Making Something of Myself (2012). In her series White Noise (2009-2013) Clark deftly folds and releases paper to emboss, extrude and tease shades of meaning and surface pattern from the monochrome plane; we see what Clark felt. As with Hassinger’s Hanging Boxes and Changing Boxes, the objects engage with the history of intrinsic form and function. Bauhaus sensibilities vis-à-vis the union of art, design and function resonate but are engaged anew by Hassinger and Clark. The ready-made, like nature itself, presents inherent design properties and legacies repurposed by the artists for new forms of aesthetic and sociopolitical function. As Clark eloquently articulates in her artist’s statement, and manifestly evident in this exhibition, everyday objects can be rhizomes, open to multiple readings and trajectories, receptive to personal stories and narratives of meaning alongside and within their formal properties.

On view in Mechanical Hall Gallery, Hassinger & Clark: Boxes, Combs and Constellations follows short residencies held by each artist at the University of Delaware in the Spring of 2013, during which time they engaged undergraduate students in the foundation studio course, held crits sessions with graduate students, and gave public presentations. The residencies were made possible by a grant from the President's Diversity Initiative, created to bring distinguished visiting artists to campus to initiate new work, advance work-in-progress, and share existing work through performances, exhibits, lectures, and work with students.

Born in Los Angeles, California in 1947, Maren Hassinger received her B.A. from Bennington College in Vermont and her M.F.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles. A multimedia artist who creates sculpture, installation, performance, and video art, Maren Hassinger has been Director of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore since 1997.

Sonya Clark was born in Washington, DC in 1967. She received a B.A. from Amherst College, a B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art. A professor in the School of the Arts of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Clark has served as chair of the Department of Craft/Material Studies since 2006.

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