Ann Hamilton


At my interim review last Friday, Martha McQuade suggested that I look at the work of the artist Ann Hamilton, specifically a piece called whitecloth at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art that uses fabric and blurs the line between art and architecture. Two pieces of fabric move forward and back on a simple motorize pulley through an historic puritan house turned art gallery via holes in the walls, floors and through the various spaces.

The fabric moving through a hole in the floor.

An in-depth description and review of the piece can be found here.

Describing whitecloth in an interview with Mary Katherine Coffey, the artist says:

What connected all of the works in the space was this fleeting white cloth that was animated by a motor in the attic. There were three floors, and the motor pulled a cable along. Two white cloths were attached to that cable. They rarely “saw” each other. We cut approximately twenty-six holes through the walls and floor, so that this ghostlike presence could animate the whole thing. It could pass through and go forward and reverse. It was a little bit like a rabbit, not knowing if it wanted to come in or out of the hole. And it animated this building like a ghost, and therefore linking all of these much more domestic spaces than I’m used to working in with a gesture and an action rather than with a kind of material surround. whitecloth was the cloth of Veronica’s veil, the white cloth of a truce, the white background of landscape. It was the multiple references that any white cloth of that scale. Pulleys that drew it along. Whenever it passed one of the revealed windows and blocked the light, it would trigger an event. For example, a tub was set down so that the water level in the tub was flush with the level of the wood floor. There was a speaker underneath, eight inches below that you could see. Every time the white cloth passed the window and blocked the light, a sound wave gathered in the water. You could feel it in your feet, because the floor would start to vibrate. Then the water would gather, almost like a passing sigh, and dissipate until the next cloth passed another window. So the light from the outside and the cloth on the inside were connected to the way sound was physically present in water. There is obviously a relationship here between light and voice.

Another Hamilton piece, Human Carriage, uses a similar palette of materials. Here is a video of it in action at the Guggenheim.

Mary Katherine Coffey interview, Histories That Haunt: A Conversation with Ann Hamilton, in Art Journal, Vol. 60, No. 3 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 11-23


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