Elliott Hundley: The Bacchae
January 28 - April 22, 2012
For its debut exhibition of the new year, the Nasher Sculpture Center will host the first touring exhibition of the distinctive "bulletin board" collages and sculptures of Los Angeles-based artist Elliott Hundley. Over the past decade, Hundley has developed a multifaceted, intricate art using paint, photographs, and organic and found materials ranging from bamboo, goat hooves, and pine cones to pins, magnifying lenses, and gold leaf. The mythic world of ancient Greek tragedy becomes vividly contemporary as Hundley reimagines Euripides’s last play, The Bacchae, in twelve works presented in one of the Nasher’s street-level galleries.
The Bacchae is a tale of familial betrayal and divine revenge set in the ancient city of Thebes. The god Dionysus (Bacchus to the Romans) has decided to punish its citizens when they refuse to accept his claim that he is the son of Zeus. After bringing the women of Thebes under his influence, Dionysus leads them out of the city and into the wilderness where they join his followers, the Bacchae, in worshipping him in ecstatic rituals. The god then convinces the king of Thebes, Pentheus, to spy on the women, who, upon discovering him, mistake him for a wild beast. Led by Pentheus’s own mother, Agave, the women rip the king limb from limb. Agave then returns to Thebes, carrying her son’s head as a trophy, still unaware of her delusion. When Dionysus’s influence on her finally loosens, she is horrified to discover that she has murdered her own son.
Hundley conceives of his mixed-media collages as theatrical landscapes. First orchestrating photo shoots with friends and family members who pose as characters from the Greek drama, he then uses the resulting photographs as the underlying basis of large-scale, multi-panel compositions. From these, he builds out layers upon layers of additional images and materials, such as smaller versions of the photographs and strings of letters spelling out passages from Euripides’s text. Hundley and his assistants affix most of the pictorial elements with pins – hundreds of them in a single work – creating a dizzying intensification of presence and depth. Accompanying these striking wall reliefs are large freestanding sculptures; like the reliefs, they take inspiration from passages in Euripides’ play and become essential figures in Hundley’s fictive world, inhabiting both the environments of the photographs and the exhibition installation.
Elliott Hundley: The Bacchae comes to the Nasher from the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University, Columbus. The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue containing new essays by Wexner Chief Curator Christopher Bedford, the poet Anne Carson, noted art historian Richard Meyer, and the artist, writer, critic, curator, and educator Doug Harvey. Together they offer a stimulating exploration of the artistic and personal origins of Hundley’s work, its relation to art past and present, and the inspiration he receives from poetry, film and theater, and Greek tragedy and myth.
Elliott Hundley: The Bacchae was organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University and made possible by a significant contribution from Battelle. Generous support for this exhibition is also provided by The Broad Art Foundation and Lonti Ebers, New York. Local support generously provided by Nancy A. Nasher & David J. Haemisegger and Marion & Nash Flores.
tearing flesh from the bone, 2011
Wood, metal, plastic, rope, found upholstery coils, goat hooves, metal leafing, pine cones, lobster legs, feathers, and epoxy 89 x 40 x 66 inches
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York
© Elliott Hundley
Photo: Joshua White