Jim Hodges taps the sublime in a new show at Walker Art Center

  • Updated: February 13, 2014 - 5:33 PM

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Who says modern art can’t be beautiful? Certainly not Jim Hodges, whose work is collected in a poetic show opening this weekend at the Walker.

When Walker Art Center director Olga Viso first encountered the art of Jim Hodges in a Los Angeles gallery nearly 20 years ago, she was transported into a shimmering mirage of memories. A fluttering cascade of silk scarves opened for her a bower of sunlight, warmth and elusive scents.

Echoing that moment, Viso has gathered a lyrical retrospective of Hodges’ work, “Give More Than You Take,” which opens with a preview party Friday night.

A trove of sensual stimulation, the 80-piece show begins with a ribbon of artificial flowers tumbling from the ceiling and a wall strewn with flower petals like a bride’s path.

There are intimate drawings of the full moon, chain-link spider webs, glass bells, shattered mirrors, mosaics of black glass and mirrored tesserae. There is a dark room where perfumes mix — male and female — and a gold-leafed forest enclosure. There are camouflage patterns everywhere, wanted posters without faces, a glass-crystal skull, and musical scores sliced into poetry.

A glass artist from Portland created at Hodges’ request a 3-D interpretation of Albrecht Dürer’s famous watercolor “The Great Piece of Turf,” complete with fool-the-eye leaves, blossoms and beetles. And Hodges and his assistants stitched up a vast tapestry made of worn denim that explodes across a two-story wall as if it were a neo-baroque vision of the heavens.

“Give/Take” is, in short, an unusually enticing antidote to the frigid days of a particularly irksome Minnesota winter.

Spanning a quarter-century, the show is typical of an artist who doesn’t fit any easy categories. At a time when a lot of contemporary art isn’t very pretty, his art is beautiful. And it concerns such eternal topics as life and death, nature and artifice, daylight and darkness, earth and sky, now and then, and the poetic interplay of such opposites.

Viso on Hodges

Though known internationally, Hodges, 56, hasn’t been shown much in the Twin Cities, aside from four boulders faced with colored steel that the Walker installed in 2012 on the hill overlooking the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

Born in Spokane, Wash., he earned an MFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1986 and has lived in New York City since then.

The show, which runs through May 11 and was organized in collaboration with the Dallas Museum of Art, is the second exhibition Viso has personally curated since she became the Walker’s director in January 2008. It follows her 2010 retrospective of Argentine sculptor Guillermo Kuitca, whose work was also allusively poetic.

Excerpts from a talk with Viso:

Q: Why have you done shows of these two artists?

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  • Jim Hodges’ delicate 1997 montage of scarves and artificial flowers defies the traditional notion of sculpture as a macho statement in steel or stone.

  • Hodges’ love of nature was nurtured in the Pacific Northwest, where he grew up before settling in New York.

  • Jim Hodges' “Movements (Stage II)”, a mosaic made from bits of mirror.

  • Working in many media, Jim Hodges has produced charcoal drawings that suggest nebulae and delicate abstract drawings in colored pencil. The glass bells were made for him by artisans associated with the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, Wash.

  • "Jim Hodges: Give More than Your Take," show was installed at the WAC, photographed on 2/7/14. The show opens Sat. at Walker Art Center, curated by WAC director Olga Viso, who talks about the artist, his place in contemporary scene, etc. Story will be strong on Viso quotes, maybe some from Hodges too since art won't be available before our deadlines.] Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune Olga Viso, Jime Hodges/source.

  • Jim Hodges Happy‚ÄìA World in the World 2001 Prismacolor on paper 47 3/8 √ó 34 15/16 in. (120.3 √ó 88.7 cm) Collection Jeff, Mary, and Martha Rathmanner Photo by Gene Pittman ¬©Jim Hodges

  • Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take

    When: Opens Sat., ends May 11. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Wed. & Fri.-Sun., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thu.

    Preview party: 9 p.m.-midnight Fri., with cameos by Sisyphus (Sufjan Stevens, Serengeti and Son Lux) and DJ sets by Olga Bell (Dirty Projectors) and Angel Deradoorian. $30.

    Where: Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. 612-375-7600 or www.walkerart.org.

    Admission: $8-$12; free for 17 and younger and for all on Thursday evenings.

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