Contemporary Links 4: James Hyde
Luminous Platforms and Relaxed Seating
February 18 through April 30, 2006

Contemporary Links 4: James Hyde—Luminous Platforms and Relaxed Seating is a special project inserted into a pre-existing collection-based installation, Tracking and Tracing: Contemporary Acquisitions 2000-2005. Through the addition of seating, tables and a selection of books, Hyde’s project is a laboratory for reshaping the audience experience by changing the terms of engagement with the works on view.

 James Hyde is known for his imaginative use of materials, such as pigment on over-sized pillows or tiny wooden blocks, wall hangings made from beach chair webbing and furniture-as-art of translucent plastics. Although much of his work appears to be about the perceptual condition of objects, Hyde is particularly interested in extending the terms of the experience of painting. He subtly explores the experience of vision and observation with a specific focus on the material basis of painting, resulting in approaches to art making that are imaginatively wide-ranging. Hyde thinks about the activity of painting in extended terms. “For me painting is neither an object or a practice, but is a habit of seeing…I’m interested in how furniture constructs the figure. This comes from painterly concerns. I’ve often been more interested in the pictorial qualities of the painting support than its surface. My furniture can be thought of as pictorial abstractions of a painting panel.” [1]

For instance, Hyde has made frescos on Styrofoam and paintings in glass boxes that one may in some sense consider the successors to Early Renaissance fresco murals and stained glass windows. His minimal geometric furniture designs reference the twentieth century modern styles of Russian Suprematism and De Stijl, movements that questioned boundaries between art and the utilitarian object within operative formalism. He is also indebted to the Minimal artists of the 1960s and 1970s such as Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Scott Burton, who furthered the orthodoxy of modernism by turning the appearance of functionality into a mode for exploring a phenomenological relationship with the work of art, where use and non-use became less a criteria for distinguishing art from design, but a gauge of the commonality of the two. The art historian and philosopher Christine Buc-Glucksmann suggests, “It is not the transcendent infinity of Giotto’s frescoes, nor that other white, empty and cosmic infinity of Malevich, but multiple and varied infinities…which open onto a field of real and virtual forces, where painting is implicated. A topology, in sum, in its matter and means, which empties painting of its ontological substrata and of its traditional supporting structure—canvas and stretcher—in favor of its becoming multiple, materialized and abstract.” [2]

In his most recent furniture and sculptural installations Hyde has focused on the particular characteristics of a locality as a way to expand abstract painting and minimalist sculpture into inhabited space. How Hyde transforms issues of painting—surface, space, and light—into a functional object, that is still art, becomes more obvious when one is actually viewing (and seated on) one of his constructions. For SDMA Hyde chose to shift the viewing experience by adding three reading stations, comfortable mini-environments that invite resting, reading and lounging, and offer an alternative to the demands that concentrated attention makes on the viewer of an exhibition. The largest station placed in the center of the space is modeled on an informal living room and includes galvanized sheet metal chairs, two glowing white coffee tables and one red one. “I used to use sheet metal a lot for my painting panels, but now I use it exclusively for the furniture. It’s a cheap material, but is very beautiful. I like the way the galvanization is stippled and how it reflects. It has a clearly recognizable planar quality, like a sheet of paper and it manages to be both flexible and rigid.” The other two stations include low comfortable chairs of Styrofoam covered in upholstery vinyl and an illuminated bookshelf, each nestled close to corners and walls. The light spills out from the furniture expanding into the space through their reflecting illumination. 

In addition to the three reading stations, Hyde has worked with museum staff to select reading material with topics related to the works on view. These domestically scaled mini-libraries may be considered a second intrusion onto the experience of the source exhibition. Although not an uncommon practice, placing books into the gallery space filled with reproductions and texts on works of art creates another form of engagement, which includes a choice between two different gazes, either towards the art on display in the ambulatory setting of the galleries, or towards the book. Hyde’s project is about the multiplicity of various nodal intersections between art and the utilitarian object, perceptual experience and function, and the expectation one has of formal signs when encountering singular things. Seemingly self contained and reductive his art reaches out towards the quotidian while maintaining a direct path back to the core questions posed by Western art history about the technologies of materiality and visuality.

James Hyde was born in Philadelphia in 1958. He has lived in Brooklyn since 1978. Hyde has exhibited his work in recent solo exhibitions at the Brent Sikkema Gallery, New York; Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, N.C.; and Les Filles Du Calvaire, Paris. Selected group exhibitions include Working in Brooklyn, Brooklyn Museum, 2004; Mimimalist Furniture, Louisa Guinness Gallery, London, 2004; Sugar and Cream, Triple Candie, New York, 2003; and Support/Surface, Now and Then, Dorsky Gallery, New York, 2002. His work is in the collection of the Guggenheim Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Denver Art Museum, among others. He received the Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship in 2000.

[1] All quotes by James Hyde are from an interview with the artist conducted by Klaus Ottman, "James Hyde," The Journal of Contemporary Art, (2000),

[2] Buci-Glucksmann, Christine. "Places of Painting," James Hyde 
Paris: Le Quartier, p. 17.