Artwork: Installation view of Hugo McCloud: Veiled at Sean Kelly, New York. Photography: Jason Wyche, New York. Courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see,” Edgar Degas observed more than a century ago, keenly aware of people’s propensity to project themselves upon all they encounter in the world. Being conscious, it is never possible to get out of our head, but the gift of an artist is to reframe our perceptions. In doing so we grow, expanding our understanding and deepen our sensibilities, so that our very being is enhanced.
American artist Hugo McCloud (b. 1980) understands this and transforms the way we experience the act of looking itself. Trained as an industrial designer and a welder, McCloud worked alongside architects and developers on construction sites, acquiring a hands-on sensibility towards the materials used to create the world in which we live and bringing it to his art.
But whereas design and architecture play by the rules, McCloud found liberation in the creation of art. Integrating unconventional, utilitarian materials like tar, metal, and wood into traditional oil pigment and woodblock production techniques, McCloud examines the boundaries between fine and industrial arts. The materials he uses can be found all around the world, in poor and wealthy neighborhoods alike. They are the humble materials that surround us, yet we rarely see. Like Nas, McCloud, “Made you look” in a whole new way.
In Veiled, his new show at Sean Kelly, New York, currently on view through January 21, 2017, McCloud presents more than 20 new, large-scale abstract works from four different series. The exhibition takes its name from one of the series on view in which McCloud covers the majority of each surface with aluminum foil. What remains visible is vibrant, energetic work that invites the imagination to participate. What is the significance of the veil and how does it operate? Were the painting completely veiled would we consider what we could not see? Or is it just the mere suggestion of something hidden from us that piques our curiosity?
In the same way, McCloud’s extraordinary series of hand-stamped paintings made during a recent residency at Bellas Artes Projects in the Philippines create a powerful response brought about by their elegant intricacy. The gold and white works, on tarpaper, have been torched, hammered and branded with hand-carved wooden blocks, create a luxurious sensibility reminiscent of nineteenth century industrialization.
As a counterpoint, McCloud includes a series of works made from industrially manufactured polyethylene sacks he collected from waste pickers in the Philippines. These works hangs from the ceiling, fully inhabiting our space, acting as a reminder Andy Warhol’s words, “Art is anything you can get away with.” Somewhere between painting, assemblage, and sculpture this series finds itself, not quite as tongue-in-cheek as Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” but just as subversive. This is not anything we would naturally stop to consider, but McCloud insists: that which exists is worthy of contemplation, even veneration because as Confucius understood, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
Artwork: © Hugo McCloud, courtesy: Sean Kelly, New York
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.