October 17, 2008

New Art: The Darkest Hour by Catherine King

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The Darkest Hour. 40" x 60" collage © 2008 Catherine King

by Jerome du Bois

Catherine's newest collage is a visually stunning summary of metaphors of time, life, anxiety, melancholy, and death. She used only images of dark-faced wristwatches precisely cut from magazines, oriented each one on the 12/6 vertical axis, and ranked them by diminishing size in concentric frames. These formal restrictions unleash a rich array of associations.

First, though, just look at it. Fall into its beautiful complexity. Ranked in columns and rows, Time marches toward you and away from you at the same time. Every moment is a faceted jewel. Revel in the glorious detail, the variety of human ingenuity within strict parameters. So carefully has Catherine used the X-acto knife and scissors that the timepieces overlap seamlessly, some peeking out behind and through others. Stepping back, one sees the order of perspective, the melancholy contemplation of a long life. Stepping close, one sees the richness of particularity, the busy buzz of being in one's life. In the middle distance, the further past crowds the recent past, and the present, a piece of time in each timepiece.

Due to her consummate skill, each image pops, but this is serious Pop art, ten thousand miles from the smarmy irony and comic-book simplicity of Richard Hamilton and Roy Lichtenstein. Nor do we see the random clutter of the more recent cartoony surrealists. By lifting the images from the latest magazines --no old Life appropriation here-- Catherine pays tribute to the unforgiving detail yet infinitely rewarding clarity of the new digital photography. Though taken from the shiny thin pages of mass-market periodicals, binary images, either here now or not here at all, published at regularly determined intervals, there's nothing superficial here, but a meditation as deep as Aristotle's physics.

Aristotle wrote about two kinds of time, continuous and discrete, the flow and the step, the river and the pebble. Old physics and new physics. The Darkest Hour portrays new physics, where time does not unwind like the relaxing spool of a watchspring, but ticks in relentless regularity like the quantum. It reminds me of the face of the Large Hadron Collider.

The Watchmaker God appears here, showing his gears, but more often the dark face of empty space marked only by the hands of fate and the numbered days of our lives. Crowded edge-to-edge and top to bottom, yet forming a corridor, The Darkest Hour suggests a life seen all at once from the doorway of the Day of Judgment. Anxiety rises: what have I done? Have I done enough? What is my life worth? Some days were better than others, but they're all there, judging one another, each standing alone and discrete, despite having so much in common. Each changeless moment changes us, and if we're wise what endures is the character that has developed in the dark, because that's all we can carry with us into the darkest hour.

Posted by Jerome at October 17, 2008 08:00 AM | TrackBack