David Hutchinson

David Hutchinson

“As a concept based abstract artist, my work investigates the nature of communication and the meaning of visual presentation.  Over the years I have developed a few devices that are consistently employed: the use of over-writing (the transcription drawings), a ‘chromatic alphabet’, and an ‘achromatic alphabet’.  The way in which these tools are used vary, depending on the work’s emphasis or intended message. The work may change slightly from project to project, but the underpinnings remains constant.”

Hutchinson completed coursework for a PhD in philosophy at the New School for Social Research, the Graduate Faculty, and his works are infused with theories of text and language; he was especially influenced by the works of Derrida, Husserl, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Hutchinson came to Genet through Sartre and Derrida, and was initially interested in Genet’s radical rejection of social and political norms, his lyrical treatment of corruption, and his defiance of received standards of immorality. He was also impressed by Genet’s use of formal, crystalline prose to steadily guide the reader through turbulent, and disturbing, subject matter. Artistic influences include Frank Stella, Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, and—particularly—Alfred Jensen and early Marsden Hartley.

Throughout his career, Hutchinson has been interested in, and influenced by, formalism. Although formalism is a notoriously protean concept, for Hutchinson it is an approach to a mythical concept of an ideal (suggesting Plato’s theory of archetypal forms). When Hutchinson views an artwork he initially doesn’t look at content, but at the organization of the picture while trying to uncover deeper structures behind the composition. He sees formalism as an adherence to external forms, with attention to arrangement and technique, and an accompanying de-emphasis of content.

Aesthetic philosopher, Richard Wollheim (who divided formalism into “manifest” and “latent”), noted: “formalism often conceives works of art to have a linguistic or at least a language-like identity.” He also described a “putative objectivity— the sharedness of universality […] conceived…as the basic units of an extrasubjective language.” This tension between the subjective and the objective is everywhere apparent in the works in this show. Hutchinson’s works are dense, but rather than obfuscation, they offer explication, and explication is always the art of telescoping and scrutinizing details in order to explain how they contribute to the work as a whole.

Having worked extensively with the techniques of formalism, the artist recognizes that it can have a tendency to subsume message under content. He sees a parallel in the complex iconography of pre-renaissance Christian painters. “Their spatial organizations are designed to lead the eye, and their surfaces and use of light dramatize the depicted events. They position their particular narratives through the seduction of their technical skills. In modern terminology we might call them spinmeisters—as they are giving a particular slant to the interpretation of events. I expect that what I am doing is much the same.” The more the viewer looks at the paintings, the more he or she is aware of “reading” the artwork. Form and content are always connected.