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Downtown

It’s easy to misread the works of Charles Christopher Hill. For more than a decade, he’s been making sewn paintings covered with repeating marks such as X’s and squares. Hill has sometimes been aligned with dated feminist or pattern art but his quilt-like work has little to do with either.

His laborious process consists of tinting papers, stitching bulky layers together, roughing up the fibers by grinding works into the earth so that pulp more easily absorbs further applications of pigments, followed by more sewing and stretching. This procedure seems concerned with reconnecting the act of painting with the creative/craft aspect of art that’s been drained by the language-technology thrust of much Post-Modern art. At the same time, by literally binding color and surface, and replacing flat painted gestures with such tangible materials as pulp and fiber, Hill raises still unresolved issues about the nature and viability of painting today.

That’s a heavy agenda for works that have an approachable whimsy. On mottled fields of peach, beige and lilac, Hill outlines exploding stars, rockets and symbolic, blocky men using bright colored thread as if it were pencil. Along with architectonic missiles, repeating plus signs and sewn grids, he embeds bits of real bamboo or rendered florals, the two playing like science and system set against spontaneity and nature. (Cirrus Gallery, 542 S. Alameda St., to Oct. 22.)


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