William Blake might have urged us to see the world in a grain of sand, but leave it to Tim Hawkinson to have us contemplating space-time wormholes in his sock drawer.
Hawkinson’s wondrous, chewy new work at Denk gallery draws no distinction between the prosaic and the cosmic — or the comic, for that matter. His sculptures crack canny visual jokes and show off tremendous material ingenuity, all the while poking and prodding at notions of spirit, self and value.
In “Sock Drawer,” hundreds of small photographic prints are arranged in a honeycomb pattern and framed overall by black urethane. Those are, indeed, stretched-open socks that we’re peering down into in the prints, but they’re also convincing apertures to another dimension. Hawkinson has turned an absurd action, repeated with variation, into a clunky, weirdly exhilarating piece of op art.
Working along the lines of Bruce Nauman, Hawkinson has long regarded his own body as raw material for smart, splendidly funny sculpture. He joins urethane casts of various parts (knee, belly) to make the mollusk-worthy “Personal Shell,” envisioning skin as both literal carapace and metaphorical protection.
Transformation serves as both strategy and subject for the L.A.-based artist. He elevates the common into the dazzling. Egg cartons and berry baskets sheathed in Mylar become diamonds in an oversize, jeweled belt. Strips of the metalized polyester are looped and woven into an “Invisibility Cloak,” a ghostly, shimmering pelt suspended from the ceiling and empowered to disguise the known as unknowable.
And in “Orrery,” Hawkinson turns the sacred trope of Madonna and child into something else, less pure and far less ideal — a motorized spectacle, backed by a plastic tarp, industrial surrogate for celestial blue.
Hawkinson tinkers his way through an array of speculative propositions, what-ifs centering on process and stirring up meaning via invention and inversion. He embeds raw eggs in wet plaster, then carves “Eggshell Torso (Asteroid)” out of the hardened block, the emptied shells leaving dozens of divots, each at once a decorative pattern and impact wound.
A resourceful engineer, Hawkinson counts chance too as a purposeful tool. One surprise begets another throughout this unabashedly self-referential, unapologetically playful, probing show.
Denk, 749 E. Temple St., L.A. Tuesdays-Saturdays, through March 30. (213) 935-8331, www.denkgallery.com
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