John McWhinnie at Glenn Horowitz Booksellers is very pleased to announce their new exhibition – Duncan Hannah, World of Women: Paintings and Works on Paper. The show will open with a reception for the artist on Thursday, May 14th from 6 and 8 p.m., and run through June 20th.
Woman as subject and muse is an age old theme in the archives of art’s history and it is no revelation that the artist here frequently crosses the threshold into a world of the personal and the imaginary. Such a supposition might be entertained in double with the work of Duncan Hannah who has consistently insisted upon a personal imaginary world in his art. Characteristically his work is infused with the spirit of a by-gone era, or more properly, with an imaginary by-gone era. Through mutual exposure to photography, film and printed media of the not-too-distant past we are invited to feel ourselves familiar with this world. As plainly as they are rendered here, the women in these paintings and drawings, all produced over the last 7 years, partake of this feeling of the imagined world. Hannah has no problem tagging his subjects with their real-life source names – a bevy of beauties from the fashion and film worlds of the past century; Joan Barry, Laura Antonelli, Stephanie Audran, Catherine Spaak all get some play here alongside, of course, Hannah’s major pash, Nova Pilbeam, the British teen actress of the ’30s. Not all of his women are dubbed with real source names, but it is not without significance that those who are hail from the past, and from the perfected world of the camera lens. This information renders them more remote, and remote they singularly are. There is a particular type of alchemy Hannah is capable of in establishing a careful distance between his subjects and the viewer. The smoothness of treatment, the inexpressive scenes and features, the whisper of a faded era are all elements he deploys in situating the viewer. The distance created is precise in its invitation to the viewer to blink and walk away, or to stop and take note. If you do stop and note, the spell will take hold. As with the blankness of Edward Hopper’s world, the coolness of De Chirico’s, the plainness of early Picabia’s, the impact of these works is in the space they open up for feeling to inhabit. At the same time the work subtly repels emotion, insisting on the banality of its simplicity. There is no visual nuance here. Many of the drawings could have been made from magazine centerfolds, cinema lobby cards or marginal snap shots. It is in the tightrope act they walk between the worlds of cliché and moment that Hannah’s works acquire their power.
Alongside drawings and paintings Hannah is exhibiting a range of earlier collage works dating from the ’80s and ’90s. Here he gives way to more overt formal considerations and experiments with abstraction. Whole post cards, ticket stubs, advertising clippings, packagings and photographs are arranged on the page beside torn and scissor cut elements elaborating color, graphic and compositional themes. The disparate elements are highly evocative of the artist’s imaginary world; letter fonts, color choices and written content allude to a past time, events gone by, memories of a shared visual environment now fleetingly out of touch. Traces of biographical information are woven into the pieces, bringing the artist’s real life existence into alignment with idealized acts of creativity. The real and the imaginary are married together with art.
Born in Minneapolis in 1952 Duncan Hannah studied art in New York at Bard College and the Parsons School of Design. Since the early ’80s his work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States and in the U.K. His works are part of the permanent collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Fine Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, amongst others. He currently lives and works in New York City.