Filling the Void

Beyond an emotional or visceral reaction, and the question of what it is or isn’t, art for me tends to inevitably carry the qualifier of whether it makes one think. That being the case, several of the seriously meta aspects of the work of Richard Haley, featured in the exhibit, Holes, Voids, and Other Descriptive Terms for Blankness, currently at LA’s Pacific Design Center, caught my eye (or mind, I should say), with one piece in particular, “Hole Relocation,” the cornerstone of the exhibition, as an example.

It began with Haley fashioning a plaster mold of a hole in the ground in his hometown of metro Detroit. He then had it transported to Los Angeles, where he used it to create an identical hole, which was then packed with dirt from the other side of the country. The portable hole, positioned on a handcart, is displayed with adjunct pieces, left. In the artist’s own words, from an interview at the podcast, Bad at Sports:

“Essentially, I’m shipping nothing from one contested place to some other strange place — two strange cities… I don’t exactly know what a hole is, and I’m trying to figure that out. It’s a puncture in the land, but it’s not the land itself — it’s not the site. It’s surrounded by the site, but it can’t exist without the site. A hole is almost more like a photograph in that a photograph is not the thing, but it cannot exist without the thing the photograph is of. The hole is the space, it’s not the earth.”

Like I said, seriously meta, and, yes, it made me think. How do you replicate nothingness? What is a hole, if nothing? Who defines the subjective aspects of a void? (I’ll stop there for now.)

Haley is interesting because he touches on elements of minimalism, conceptualism, and land and performance art in one way or another. (Another project had him in a race against the sun as he attempted to sink a rowboat in synchronization with a sunset, right. Yet another was called an “Attempt to Disappear Where the Blue of the Sky Touches the Blue of the Sea.”)

In his review of the current exhibition, LA Times critic Christopher Knight wrote that “getting an object to signify nothingness isn’t easy.” Nor is getting someone to think…

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