Critical Reflections: Colette Hosmer: The Hungry Ghost

William Siegal Gallery<br /> 540 South Guadalupe, Santa Fe

Date July 31, 2008 at 10:00 PM

Author Alex Ross

Publication THE magazine

Categories Performing Arts

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The histories of the visual and culinary arts evidence numerous points of intersection. Indeed, humanity's oldest surviving visual records witness sources of sustenance as their principal iconographic materials; although the exact purposes of such figuration continue to engender contention within the anthropological community, it is presently held that faunal representations date back to at least the time of Aurignacian culture (32,000-26,000 B.C.).

To a degree, the connections between food and artists' iconographic programs have clarified since. It is now widely asserted that the ancient Egyptians adorned their tombs with still lifes in hopes of nourishing the denizens of the afterlife; Roman frescoes commonly pertain to the celebration of abundance; and Netherlandish vanitas paintings speak to a keen awareness of man's ineluctable mortality. More recently, Sophie Calle's exhibitionistic strategies toward deconstructing the dynamics of eating (e.g., The Chromatic Diet), as well as Shi Qing's current project at SITE Santa Fe, Mongolian Messenger, exemplify contemporary art's sustained engagement with cuisine--underscoring the subject's ability to alternately highlight and erode individual differences as it reflects the intricate processes of cultural exchange.

Accruing significance from the complex histories of these antecedent creative practices, Colette Hosmer's exhibition The Hungry Ghost synthesizes meanings invested in meals by a vast array of past and present societies. The formal attributes of her works mirror the contradictory pulls of fragmentation and repetition innate to a subject of universal concern whose interpretation is as far ranging as the geographic and temporal locations across which it extends. Appropriately, an atomized repertoire--fractured and modular--informs the majority of Hosmer's art on display. Here, life-cast organic subjects (portions of cows, elk, fish, ducks, and pigs) are treated to a program of willed uniformity in which meanings are multiplied, incompletion and monotony are made expressive in their fixed patterning, and identical forms gain gravity through dirge-like recurrence.

Exemplifying the effectiveness of this approach, Marrow Bones collects one hundred cast-porcelain fragments of a part of an animal that nature has vehemently protected. Achieving nearly rococo complexity in the subtly modulated repetition of delicate forms arrayed across three dimensions, the work's achromaticism and unity of discrete elements nonetheless sustain a reserve more closely allied to minimalist sculpture practice-Carl André's pure-white, die-based scatter works come to mind. Maintaining an aesthetic as much indebted to the clean slice of the cleaver as it is to the heat of the kiln, Hosmer's life-size, cast-iron Elk Ribs carries an artifact of primal instinct toward aesthetic resolution that recalls High Modernism's highest accomplishments. Subtly torqued and heavily patinated, the work mirrors the organicism of its referent; yet, in its systematic production of variety from within the unity of its aligned skeletal elements, its reduced compositional vocabulary can't help but evoke comparison to such virtuoso precursors as Brancusi's Endless Column. These and other works constitute a feast for the senses, and Hosmer's accomplishment deserves laudation no less for its formal accomplishment than for its adroit conceptual engagement with art's most enduring subject matter.

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