Artwork by Peter Hutchinson. Essays by Bill Beckley and Carter Ratcliff.
BlindSpot / Princeton Architectural, New York, 2006. 144 pp., 100 color illustrations, 7½x9¾".
Some artists are forced into photography. Ever since the rise of land art and ephemeral environmental installations, a handful of artists, often working in solitude and far from any kind of audience, have been stuck with no way to share their creations. A few, like Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer or James Turrell, learned to make work with enough permanence to encourage visitors. Others, like Andy Goldsworthy, have used photographic documentation to jump from fragile, isolated works to a steady string of gallery and museum installations. Christo and Jeanne-Claude must rely on conceptual drawings to raise funds for their sculptural invasions of public space. But whenever a work of art is experienced more broadly through its documentation than its presence, the photography involved tends to be muted—allowed to exist only in the service of some other, allegedly more significant, art. Not so with Peter Hutchinson’s Thrown Rope. The book is titled for the artist’s practice of literally throwing rope down a hillside or across a landscape and then using the pattern to create a meandering artwork of grasses, flowers, stones—whatever is at hand. Working in this manner since the mid-60s, Hutchinson has remained true to the temporary and vulnerable nature of his works (a string of garlic in salt water—how long can it last?) and thus reliant on photography. Thrown Rope, however, is evidence that the photo work has been allowed to assume its own identity, in reality becoming the final step in each piece. As important as the physicality and interaction with the natural world is, Hutchinson’s art is incomplete until photographed and displayed, often in multiple, overlapping exposures and in collaged panoramas and mandalas. This is an intimate and comfortable meeting with a too frequently overlooked artist. ZANE FISCHER
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