"When artists present a wide range of media and styles in one exhibition, they run the risk of two things happening:
One, the final effect can seem scattershot, as though the artist has tried to do too much and not achieved any sort of cohesion or commonality;
Two, everything can come across as competent but unremarkable, making the artist a sort of utility player on his or her own team. (Obligatory sports parallel: Jerry Terrell, who played at least one inning at every position for the Kansas City Royals from 1977-1980, but was never an everyday player at any of those spots.)
Hannah Hurrle avoids both missteps in Escape, her one-woman group show at the Base Gallery in the Crossroads.
Hurrle covers a lot of ground — painting, sculpture, drawing, collage (and various mixed media combinations thereof), even video work — in Escape, which runs through March 27. Within those divisions by medium, there's a good deal of visual and emotional variety, ranging from the spare to the saturated.
She makes it work ... and play, with far more than mere competence at every position.
Hurrle clearly has a wide absurdist streak, fitting for someone who lists her influences as a 1979 Rapid Visualization drawing manual, zine publisher Max Ernst, personal heroine Louise Bourgeois, Edward Gorey, Richard Brautigan, and the Dada collage artist Hannah Hoch.
That ethic shows up not only in Hurrle's own collage work, but in pieces such as Matches, pictured above.
In one sense, it calls to mind Marchel Duchamp's "Ready-Mades," found objects signed and passed off as art. In another, it recalls Pop Art's elevation of the mundane. And while both of those are true, the work is more than that: It's also a response to a specific incident, which gives it the added layer of personal meaning.
Hurrle explains the source of Matches:
In college I took a 3d shop class. One of our class projects was to make a weather vane. After drawing and cutting the shapes for north, south, east, west, and welding the directional indicators onto a base, I realised all I had done was make something that resembled a weather vane, but was unbalanced and unable to rotate. Putting function aside, I turned the project in with the explanation that it was "A sculpture of a weather vane". My professor gave me a D. "Matches" was intentionally made to be a sculpture of a match book. It is a sculpture of the feeling you get trying to run in slow motion.
Back stories like that are essential to understanding Escape ... especially its most poignant work, the video installation Library. Again, the cool, meditative visual surface of the piece — which was filmed inside the Coffrin Library at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay — covers a strong emotional undercurrent:
In 1998, my family moved into a 100 year old farmhouse in New Franken, Wisconsin, Hurrle explains. This library was a short, downhill bike ride from our five acres. I particularly enjoyed the view of Lake Michigan from the top floor, the thousands of object-books, the smell of ink and dusty leather, and the late 1970s furniture. This place was my sanctuary when I felt like daydreaming. My father passed away in May of 2009. While I was there for the funeral, I went back to the library. I filmed my feet walking down the stairs, the slow trace-like walk through the stacks of books, trying to visually isolate my favorite vacation spots. As I felt that moment, and what I have tried to exemplify in this film, is that there is no place you can truly escape to. Wherever you go, your feet and your heart go too.
And wherever Hurrle goes in Escape — visually, thematically, emotionally — she succeeds."
- Steve Brisendine, ARTKC365