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Elemental brings together sixteen artworks that mine the beauty of natural forces arrested over time. The works consider boundaries; zones of separation, connection, and transformation. Each denotes a state of flow, a state of collapsing or reconstituting matter. An air of searching for the celestial and transcendental further animates these works, a quality I seek out as I contemplate the various subjects of my own painting practice.

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Lynn Saville, Pepsi-Cola Sign, New York, 2008. Chromogenic print, 50 x 70 inches (127 x 177.8 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson, New York.
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Christopher Wool, Untitled, 1990. 1986 Enamel on paper, 11 x 17 inches (27.94 x 43.18 cm). © Christopher Wool.

Consider Lynn Saville’s photograph, Pepsi-Cola Sign, New York (2008): the energetic work is composed like an abstract painting. It is split into two halves. The lower half is rock; ancient, compressed, dense matter. The upper half is space; light, with soaring verticals. In between, a backwards Pepsi sign negotiates nature and culture. By contrast, Christopher Wool’s enigmatic work on paper, Untitled (1986), is executed with an adroit handling of pigment and surface that balances forces of chaos and control. The drawing conveys the human propensity to modify elemental matter, evoking both the fundamental and the ancient in a profound way.

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Nathaniel Rackowe, Sliced Door Four, 2007. Hollow core doors, fluorescent light 74 13/16 x 27 9/16 x 27 9/16 inches (190 x 70 x 70 cm). © Nathaniel Rackowe.
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Agnieszka Kurant, Air Rights 2, 2015. Powdered stone, foam, wood, eletromagnets, custom pedestal, Base: 59 1/4 x 9 x 9 inches (150.5 x 22.9 x 22.9 cm). Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York/Los Angeles.

Literally suspended in space, Agnieszka Kurant’s Air Rights 2 (2015) is held in time. As the sculpture hovers precariously, it resembles an alien invader arrested before the point of impact. The work anticipates release and transformation in a palpable way and its apt title reminds us that everything is acutely controlled. Meanwhile, Slice Door Four (2007) by Nathaniel Rackowe deconstructs and reconstructs stacked and bolted segments of doors that ascend into a simulacrum of a totemic skyscraper.

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Giovanni da Milano, Christ and Saint Peter; the Resurrection; Christ and Mary Magdalen, 1360s Gold ground; tempera on panel 10 1/4 x 25 1/4 inches (26.04 x 64.14 cm) Promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art © Hill Art Foundation, photo by Matthew Herrmann.

Magnetic and aglow in precious gold leaf, Giovanni da Milano’s panel painting, Christ and Saint Peter; the Resurrection; Christ and Mary Magdalen (1360s), presents a cinematic translation of the resurrection of Christ. The human urge to see and touch the miraculous or divine is expertly illuminated in this scriptural episode. So too does Idris Khan’s Rembrandt…by himself (2006), which contains a spiritual energy emanating from within. An aggregated composite of all of Rembrandt’s self-portraits condensed into a single image, the work atomizes the identity of the great painter through time. It is a condensation of age and light.

About the curator

Louise Giovanelli (b. 1993, London, UK) lives and works in Manchester (UK). She recently completed her postgraduate studies at the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main (DE) with professor Amy Sillman in 2020, after having earned a Bachelor’s Degree (B.A. Hons, Fine Art) at the Manchester School of Art, Manchester (UK) in 2015. Read more here.

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The Foundation’s virtual exhibition series invites artists and curators to select 10–15 works from The Hill Collection that activate each other in new and unexpected ways. Without the usual obstacles of installation, these exhibitions give us the opportunity to see the collection in a new light.

Major thanks to Matthew Herrmann for creating our renderings and Martin Fox for editorial support. 

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