Forming questions: James Hyde

On a trip to a few Bushwick galleries last weekend, I was drawn to a couple of small pieces by James Hyde in “Solid Pull,” a group exhibition of contemporary ceramics whose “entry point is the practice of painting.”

(Image: James Hyde, mixed media piece, small scale)

Curated by Caroline Santa and Rachael Gorchov for TSA, this lively exhibition proposes that clay and paint have a lot in common:

Clay is an immediate and flexible medium � it allows artists to realize their vision in a visceral, tactile manner. Clay can function as �all paint and no support� � the dimensionality of the medium allows for a form of searching that isn�t present in two-dimensional media. The consummation of the maker and the material through the physical building of layers is spatial image-making at its most fundamental.

Checking out Hyde’s website, I found the following set of questions he wrote in 1998 that still seem to inform his work today. They were originally published in Ready-Made Colour, a 2002 anthology edited by Claude Briand-Picard and Antoine Perrot:

1. Is a tube of paint used for a painting more or less a ready-made than a bottle rack used to make an art object?

2. Is concrete more or less raw than oil paint?

3. What constitutes found color? If one matches the exact shade of a poppy in a field, is that color any more or less found than Forest Green paint bought at the hardware store?

4. Is it ever possible to use color in a painting so that it is impersonal or unevocative? If a painter intended it to be unevocative, would it be?

5. If paint is color and adhesive, does that make decals and tape paint?

6. What makes a painting a painting? Is it to be defined materially; i.e., is it a somewhat flat object made with paint? If so, should we admit car doors to the category and exclude frescos, which are made without the binding agent of a paint?

 James Hyde

7. Conceptually and critically is it more interesting to be able to call a real dog a painting, or a painting a real dog?

8. Is it color that identifies the object as a painting or is it painting that allows us to develop the mechanics and poetics of color?

9. How many colors or shades of color are necessary to produce the image of a picture?

10. Is a picture ever material?

11. What would it mean to have a fake painting, not a fake of a particular painting, but an object imitating a painting? If painting is a mimetic art, wouldn�t this object pull itself up by its bootstraps to painting-hood?

12. What is the difference between wall furnishings and paintings?

13. Is it possible to understand photography and its history without considering the history and effects of painting? Is it possible to understand painting without photography? Is it possible to see a painting without already imagining its photographic reproduction?

14. When we see a view and find it picturesque, aren�t we acknowledging that the real imitates art?

15. Is color the same in a painting as it is outside painting? How is this question different from asking; is color the same in a picture as it is outside a picture?

16. Does color heighten or deny materiality within a painting?

17. �A color �shines� in its surroundings (just as eyes only smile in a face.) A �blackish� color � e.g. grey � doesn�t shine.� (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Remarks on Color.) Often in paintings, greys shine and blacks glow (witness works by Reinhardt, Velasquez, and Duccio.) Is that because of their relational surroundings or because paintings are faces made of many eyes?

18. Albers expresses that there is a fictive dimension to his painting when he says �Color deceives continually.� (Joseph Albers, The Interaction of Color.) Why doesn�t this deception occur in nature? (Animals and plants camouflage themselves, but this is as much a function of scale, pattern, and location as of color.) Albers makes a compelling case that color deception is fundamental to human perception. Does fiction imitate perception or does perception imitate art?

19. Has our social condition reached a point of saturation of objects (you could also call this a �new pictorial space�) where we can say material deceives continually?


Solid Pull,” curated by Caroline Santa and Rachael Gorchov. TSA, Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY. Through August 4, 2013. Artists include Annie Attridge, James Hyde, Joanne Greenbaum, Jane Irish, Essye Klempner and Heidi Lau.

Related posts:
Medium unspecificity prevails (2013
Holland Cotter: Unadventurous painting is everywhere (at least in New York) (2011)


  1. I can see why one would be drawn to these pieces: they grab you by the lapels and bark, "WTF is painting, ace? You tell me, then I'll tell you." Really energizing, provocative art.

  2. I like these pieces very much. They are just the bracing, refreshing tonic I needed!

  3. These are great pieces, I love the texture.

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