- Jim Hodges
- Untitled (Study for Gate)
- various chains
- 69 by 52 in. 175.3 by 132.1 cm.
- Executed in 1991.
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2007
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In Jim Hodges’ exquisite Untitled (Study for Gate) from 1991, the artist entangles the viewer in an encounter with rapture and material desire. Tucked furtively in a marginal corner space, Hodges’ intricately interlaced net of various chains stages a conceptual collision between the seeming fragility of the web and the strength of the machine-made metallic media with which he weaves it. Organic in its representation of a spider-web, Hodges’ net destabilizes traditional associations with the material he uses, transfiguring the very physical into something more. Composed of a labyrinthine weave of silver, gold, rose gold, and pink beaded chains, Untitled (Study for Gate) is a geometrically complex and visually alluring example of one of the artist’s most renowned sculptural configurations. Moreover, executed as a study for the first watershed work of the artist’s career, Untitled (Study for Gate) marks a critical juncture at the inception of Hodges’ practice.
Following in the sculptural tradition of Eva Hesse with latex, Richard Serra with lead, or Louise Bourgeois with bronze, Hodges excavates various interpretations of his media to create a radical new range of symbolic associations. A spider’s web is inherently associated with age and degradation, and the cycles of life and death—used to capture food and attract mates within its sticky grasp, the spider web is both impermanent and resilient; enticing and threatening. In Untitled (Study for Gate), Hodges’ chains oscillate between ornament and restraint—they are both dazzling in their glistening alloys and ominous in their strength. Furthermore, caught within the oculus of the cobweb are two delicate gold charms: a winged butterfly and dragonfly are suspended from the tangled mesh at the sculpture’s center. Just as Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ candy sculptures seduce in their lustrous offering of sweets, but starkly emphasize the depletion of their piles, Hodges’ Untitled (Study for Gate) ensnares us in its beguiling web if only to foreground the dilemma between desire and entrapment. The shimmering web alludes to the intricacy and interdependence of human relationships—appreciating their beauty while also acknowledging our own vulnerability within their grasp. Like his friend and peer Gonzalez-Torres, Hodges’ work explores the fragility of community and the loneliness of isolation. Both artists came of age in the early 1990s, when New York’s creative community was dealing with the devastation of the AIDS crisis. Artists like Hodges, Gonzalez-Torres, Robert Gober, and Donald Moffett responded with works that utilized the formal rigor of Minimalism but imbued this reductive vernacular with particular emotion. The sculptural work of these artists poignantly mines loss, the evanescence of life, and its persistence in our memory, harnessing the symbolic associations of materials which connote this sense of ephemerality and mortality.
In 1991, Bill Arning offered Hodges a solo show at the alternative New York space White Columns as part of their White Room series; in response, Hodges created what is today recognized as his first major mature work, Untitled (Gate), for which the present sculpture is a study. Jeffrey Grove explains, “Gate introduced to a large public an iconic motif within Hodges’s practice: the spiderweb… Gate is significant for many reasons. It was his first theatrical expression of a web and the first in a series of architectonic installations he produced at crucial moments in his development. It also introduced elements latent in his thinking and manifested a desire to push the animated nature of his work in a new direction by exploring notions of verisimilitude in a more free-spirited manner.” (Jeffrey Grove in Exh. Cat., Minneapolis, Walker Art Center (and travelling), Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take, 2013, p. 19) Not only a phenomenally beautiful sculpture in its own right, Hodges’ Untitled (Study for Gate) significantly represents the genesis of a body of work that would become history.