James Hyde material immaterial color

James Hyde. Between Bild and Built as print version (PDF 2.490 KB)


Between Bild and Built

in: Alexi Worth, Michael Lüthy, Catherine Perret: James Hyde, Paris/Brussels 2005, S. 20-43.

Chapter 4: Material or Immaterial?

Hyde’s objects express an ambivalence towards painting that recurs throughout the modern period and which became particularly intense in the second half of the twentieth century. On one side of the line stand the Materialists, with Robert Rauschenberg among them. These regard the picture as a „work-surface plane“, to use the words of Leo Steinberg. On the other side stand the Immaterialists, for example Barnett Newman and Yves Klein, for whom painting is crucially about evoking something transcendental.
Yet the ambivalence between the materiality and immateriality of art is apparent not just in the distinctions between artistic positions but also within single artworks. In this sense the endeavor of someone like Newman to replace the conventional illusionism of painting with an effect of absolute immediacy means that a canvas becomes a flat, painted picture-object. Conversely, Rauschenberg’s Bed is not simply a bed, despite its quilted bedspread with a pillow attached to it, but rather the representation of a bed. In other words it plays on the shift between materiality and immateriality. „The pattern on the quilt,“ Rauschenberg has said, „simply would not become abstract. No matter how much paint I applied, for me it simply didn’t become anything other than a quilt. The only abstract way I could liberate the quilt was to let it become an abstraction in itself.“ According to Rauschenberg, this did not work „until I put the pillow on it, whereupon the quilt became the abstraction of a bed.“ Consequently, the way a work such as Rauschenberg’s Bed appears to us, or more accurately, the way the quilt used therein appears to us – whether we perceive it as the thing itself or as the representation of a quilt – depends on our perspective.
The role of color in Hyde’s works manifests a similar ambivalence. Everything, from the vinyl tape to the latex paints, the glass to the velvet, can be a color determinant. The color is irreducibly bound up with the material in which it inheres – a ready-made coloration similar to that of Rauschenberg’s quilt. But at the same time, it becomes detached from the material. This happens not just because the associations prompted by singular colors lead us away from the materials or objects that carry them (the blue of a piece of vinyl tape is also the blue of the sky, of a lily or of the sea); it also happens because the colors combine to form chords, even where they inhere in very different materials.
Whether Hyde’s idiosyncratic method of material-painting materializes art, or whether it turns the materials into an aesthetic effect of his „pictures“ via a process of dematerialization, remains a moot point. Insofar as these two opposing processes occur concurrently, we encounter once again that pulsating, temporal dimension of art discussed above. For example, when Hyde sticks painted strips onto photographs, the result is a series of thoroughly contrasted transformations. The photograph is materialized, in other words, it becomes visible as surface. But at the same time what is visible in the photograph is materialized, insofar as the texture of the applied strips raises our awareness for the surface texture of, for example, the wall of a house. Conversely, the applied strip becomes „pictorial“ since this textural similarity tends to assimilate it into the depictive aspect of the photograph. We seem to see a flip back and forth between transparency and opacity, materiality and immateriality.

Chapter 1: A Joyous Science
Chapter 2: Painting as the Space Between
Chapter 3: Medium and Form
Punkt James Hyde Chapter 4: Material or Immaterial?
Pfeil James Hyde Chapter 5: Modeling
Chapter 6: Working Space
James Hyde. Between Bild and Built as print version (PDF 2.490 KB)