The pieces in Jim Hodges’ show at Gladstone Gallery cast transient beams of light onto the walls and into your eyes. Each work considers and consists of bits of color and reflective materials (chips of mirrors, washes of metallic and spills of shine).
Mirror Ball, on view at Gladstone’s 24 St. space, is the piece that best exemplifies the artist’s ability to transfigure stock materials into poetic installations. It comprises a large sphere – cloaked with a mosaic-like dusting of tiny mirrors – suspended from the ceiling by a cord. The glittered orb hangs above a large, ominous crater in the ground. The concrete-lined cavity is filled to its brim with a liquid that appears to be, at first glance, an all-absorbing black. Look closely as this liquid brushes against the rough edges of the crater, like an ebbing rush of ocean water, and you will see that it is actually a very dark, syrupy purple—a gothic puddle of a melted popsicle-like substance. The mirrored sphere is lowered slowly through space, until it eventually becomes submerged in the liquid. When, finally, the ball sinks completely into the ground, the liquid looks like a puddle of impenetrable, hardened, shining plastic. Tiny flashes of light continue to gleam off of its shell and break through the top of the liquid, but these eventually flicker out.
Mirror Ball feels celebratory and secret; walking into the room is like stumbling into some sort of celestial ceremony. Visitors to the gallery gather around the gash in the ground, speculating about the mechanics (the size of the crater, the temperature of the liquid) of the piece. Sitting at the edge of this pit to watch the sphere is comparable to staring into a bonfire—both have a very distinctive magnetism that makes them almost impossible to look away from. The searing beauty of Mirror Ball, like that of a bonfire, is complicated and enhanced by its constant state of flux and, eventually, its ephemerality.
Also on view is an enormous, mechanized wooden light box that sounds like a mammoth hole-puncher and smells like sawdust. The box, inspired by the throwing of colored powders and waters in the Indian Holi celebration, systematically drops streams of highly pigmented paint—violet, neons, pink, and blue—onto the ground. The ever-evolving floor is a thick, gluey accumulation of these dried and fresh globs of color.
The gallery space on 21 St., meanwhile, contains monstrous organic boulders. The inward-facing sections of these rocks’ skins have been painted with Jeff Koons-esque layers of metallic paint in different colors. Their shining aluminum facades reflect off each other and allow you to see yourself and those around you as you weave through the hulking formations.
Jim Hodges’ works explore the overwhelmingly huge notions of love, temporality, loss and death. Mirror Ball, which feels both noble and mythological, is meant to evoke all of these themes. Some of these intended concepts – especially loss – are felt in the heaviness of your anticipation as you watch the drawn out submersion of the ball into the liquid. You are then reminded of fragility and impermanence by the fleeting confetti-like flashes of refracted light that quiver and dart around the gallery walls. In the same way that the artist’s works are often evocative of natural earth wonders, these manmade art objects also allude, with reverence, to the inimitable and superhuman capability of nature.
Mirror Ball is on display at the Gladstone Gallery, 515 W. 24 St, NYC, through December 23.