ARTIST, CURATOR, WRITER, CRITIC, PHOTOGRAPHER
Dan Bischoff – New Jersey Star-Ledger
“Temporality and Objects,”
Carl Hazlewood spent three days and nights sleeping on the gallery floor to create “Temporality and Objects,” a series of wall constructions punctuated by photographs taken by the artist and mounted on canvas, on exhibit at Aljira: A Center for Contemporary Art in Newark. Most of the constructions involve sheets of paper or swaths of cloth folded, pinned or hung on the wall, with tautly stretched strings or drawn lines framing them.
The photos are about Hazlewood’s life — shots of the lot behind his Brooklyn apartment, of the New York skyline across the river, or details of daily life, such as trees blurred because they were shot from a moving car or train in the New Jersey countryside. Those are the spaces between the places, his apartment and the gallery itself, in which Hazlewood makes his art.
The whole process left him with an oddly gnomic, frequently blissful show — and a case of the flu.
“I’ve been taking lots of photos, because the built environment is sort of the native genius of the city,” Hazlewood said by phone from his apartment, where he’s recovering. “I love New York City. And I think it is its own Nature … The constructions I started because, you know, I only have one wall in my apartment to make art, the only materials I had were lots of good paper, and the string and tape every artist has. I started making them because an artist does what he can with what he has.”
Hazlewood would make the pieces, photograph them, then take them apart to make space for a new one. There’s almost a kind of aesthetic/ecological bravado in taking the pieces apart; Hazlewood only recently realized the potential that his digital photos gave him, to recombine and realign his work.
By mounting the images on Facebook, he’s picked up followers, such as poet Patricia Spears Jones, who just wrote an essay about Hazlewood’s wall pieces for the latest issue of Bomb magazine. He’s also in a new group show, “Unsayable: Wall Works,” at FiveMyles in Brooklyn.
“Temporality and Objects” is a homecoming in a way. Thirty years ago, two Guyanese immigrants — Victor Davson and Hazlewood — founded Aljira: A Center for Contemporary Art in downtown Newark. It has since become one of the longest-thriving art spaces in the city, bringing an international elan to downtown contemporary art, but also giving Newark the sort of artistic outpost (in good times and bad) that anchors a city’s arts community.
IN THE EXHIBIT
This is the first one-man show by Hazlewood in Aljira’s history and it’s about time.
The foldings and hangings carry can unexpected resonances. Many seem to refer to intimacies, sexual and otherwise. There’s a small photo in the show of bed covers folded back; there’s another, even smaller, of Hazlewood’s bare chest, with the faint trace of scar tissue making tracks over his heart. (Hazlewood underwent a life-saving heart operation when he was a boy.).
The most interesting of the constructions is called “Untitled (Game of Chance),” with what looks like a sheet of black tar paper forming a half-cylinder beneath a sketchy version of a checkerboard. There are strings and drawn lines that fix the composition to the wall. The checkerboard resembles similar checked motifs in painter Max Weber’s “Chinese Restaurant” (1913), perhaps the most famous American Cubist picture; Weber just happened to have his first museum show right around the corner at the Newark Museum — in 1913.
The landscapes, with titles such as “NJ Quotidian: Blue Marsh” and “NY Quotidian: Shadow Then,” work as portraits of his life between art making and, in return, make art out of the life itself. Sometimes, they rhyme with painting — Hazlewood began as a painter, long ago working in a highly representational style, and pictures such as “NY Quotidian: My Backyard at 2 a.m.” show apartment windows glowing like cottage casements in a pre-Raphaelite landscape. A similar coziness swims immediately to mind, even though the view looks straight down at the concrete floor of a Brooklyn back lot.
The most interesting is “NY Quotidian: Shadow Then,” a self-portrait with no real likeness. The picture was taken in the Skoto Gallery in Manhattan. Hazlewood, wearing a hoodie, was standing in front of the gallery window, looking out at dusk and noticed that his dark reflection allowed a refracted image of the Frank Gehry building that houses Barry Diller’s empire to jump into sharp relief. He snapped a picture.
The image looks like a city inside a man’s torso. Given the Gehry building’s twisted walls and big, curtainless windows, as well as its iconic status near the High Line, it can stand in for today’s Manhattan. And it can read as a protest. A black man in a hoodie encompassing all of New York City — “Shadow Then” trembles with the quivering edges of change.
Hazlewood chuckles when presented with the simile. “We can’t ever seem to escape race, can we?” he asks.