In this exhibition of new works commissioned for display at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles-based contemporary artist Tim Hawkinson creates a surprising menagerie of zoological forms using common household and industrial items and reconfigured images of his own body. Zoopsia reveals Hawkinson's characteristic strategies of fragmentation, translation, and metaphor applied to a range of creatures past and present. While Hawkinson's ideas don't literally derive from hallucinations, as the name suggests, they often begin with an alternate interpretation or enhanced misreading of objects and materials from the everyday world.
Zoopsia is presented in conjunction with the West Coast debut of Hawkinson's Überorgan. This massive, music-playing sculpture of balloons and horns is on view in the Museum Entrance Hall.
For Octopus, Hawkinson reshuffles details of human anatomy. Photographs of his own fingers, hands, and lips create a consumptive carnivore whose seductive tentacles and pulsating beauty belie its destructive power. This mutation of body parts mirrors the octopus's prodigious talents for continual refiguration as it extends and contracts in movement. In this disembodied and reconstructed portrait of self, the artist also invokes his own powers of reinvention and transformation.
To create Bat, Hawkinson used plastic bags from a local Radio Shack store. Smooth when stretched, and shrinking back to their inherent form when heated, the bags serve as the skin and fur. Remnants of the red Radio Shack logo are visible in Bat's ears and mouth. Materials are meaning: the sound waves that fuel Radio Shack revenues are vehicles of self-perception, the sonar with which a bat locates itself in relation to the world.
In Leviathon, inspired by natural history museum displays, Hawkinson envisions dinosaur vertebrae as a line of figures rowing, each stroke frozen in time like an Eadweard Muybridge stop-action photograph. The somewhat haphazard dips of the oars, if real, would hinder rather than propel a boat—or beast—forward in this sophisticated spin on the fossil record.
For Dragon, Hawkinson's elegant, fluid ink strokes, reminiscent of Chinese calligraphy, create an enfolding and mesmerizing pattern of swirls and curves. Passages of the mythical creature viewed up close evoke images of landscape and gnarled wood, blurring the boundary between animal and habitat. Painted on industrial brown paper and hung from a makeshift wooden rod, Dragon also conjures the paper beasts of Chinese parades.
Zoopsia is accompanied by the installation of Hawkinson's Überorgan. This massive construction of bus-sized balloons and horns seems to float under the central rotunda of the Getty Museum's Entrance Hall. The work exemplifies Hawkinson's use of the ordinary to achieve the extraordinary, combining and recomposing common industrial materials and found musical phrases in a multisensory sculptural experience. Never before shown on the West Coast, Überorgan changes with every installation. At the Getty it playfully interacts with and responds to the modernist white walls, travertine, and glass of Richard Meier's architecture.
The musical score for Überorgan consists of a 250-foot-long scroll. Black dots and dashes encode the notes of traditional hymns, pop songs, and improvisational tunes. The notes are deciphered by light-sensitive switches in its player and scrambled to create an endless variety of compositions.
Hear a sample of Überorgan's unique music:
Überorgan will perform for five minutes every hour on the hour throughout the run of this exhibition.
This exhibition is located at the Getty Center, West Pavilion, Terrace level (L2). Überorgan is located at the Getty Center, Museum Entrance Hall.