Collective Stance is an exhibition of work by New York-based artist Leslie Hewitt, featuring her collaboration with renowned cinematographer Bradford Young. The exhibition also includes new works and a selection of pieces from Hewitt's individual practice, informed by her collaboration with Young.
“As far as the contemporary situation . . . is concerned, we could find impulses in Kracauer’s and Benjamin’s efforts to understand the history of the present, or the present as history, and to imagine different futures whose potentialities may be buried in the past.”1
“At the very least, they could save us from cinephile nostalgia by turning our attention to the question of how films and the cinema experience relate to the ongoing, generationally marked reconfiguration of experience in daily life and social relations, in labor, the economy, and politics.”2
Seeing its Canadian premiere at The Power Plant, Untitled (Structures) (2012) is a two-channel video installation by Leslie Hewitt in collaboration with renowned cinematographer Bradford Young. Provoked by a collection of mid-twentieth-century photographs exploring shifting notions of nationhood, protest and belonging housed at the Menil Collection in Houston, the work is comprised of a series of silent (non-linear) vignettes, filmed at locations significant to the era. Hewitt and Young’s close examination of historical matters through architecture, still photography and body memory, move away from nostalgia and re-enactment as conventions. Through the assertion of the work's contemporaneity, Hewitt and Young's project explores temporality exposing the tension between still photography and the cinematic experiences of moving images, between the past and the present, between the physical and the psychological. A new film installation, Stills (2015) incorporating footage from their shoots (2010-2012) will debut exposing aspects of the evolution of Hewitt and Young’s nuanced and structural approach.
The exhibition also includes a selection of works from Hewitt's individual practice informed by her collaboration with Young and research into experimental film. Her study of the Menil Collection’s archive prompted several questions regarding memory and the encoding of historical narratives. In the image archive, what wasn’t pictured? What was missed? What were moments lost in between the release of the original camera shutter and now? How do the original images circulate in the collective historical imagination? Hewitt and Young take up these questions in a myriad of ways. Hewitt, specifically through her photolithographs; with a micro lens she photographs fragments of recorded history via the original image-scape. Through the obscuration of the original and the repositioning or translation of it in the present tense, Hewitt suggests a multi-directional and pluralized interpretation of a shared past and a singular memory object.
Leslie Hewitt’s work invites viewers to experience a space between photography and sculpture. Hewitt’s installation Untitled (Where Paths Meet, Turn Away, Then Align Again) (2012) consists of a series of steel sculptures carefully positioned in the gallery space. Each version of the installation includes photolithographs. The removal of the artist’s hand and the use of geometric forms in both the photolithograph and the industrially made sculptures reference the 1960 conceptual art movement, Minimalism. The work also references our contemporary relationship with mass produced objects, from print media to computer hardware. Viewing each steel object from a variety of angles suggests a condition where no reference to or writing of historicity can be conclusive.
Hewitt frequently pushes the limits of form to take on multiple meanings and considerations, from individual and collective relationships to memory, history and, ultimately, time. Her compositions often comprise fragments that produce the possibility of both seeing and experiencing in unexpected ways. In this work Hewitt subtly challenges viewers to experience new relationships between histories not often thought of in tandem. Her uses of space figuratively and concretely are a means to gain perspective and investigate the possibility to transform and complicate personal and collective experiences simultaneously.
The exhibition is co-produced with SculptureCenter, New York and is accompanied by a book co-published with Dancing Foxes and SculptureCenter, New York.
Leslie Hewitt (born in Saint Albans, NY, 1977) received her BFA from The Cooper Union, studied Africana/Cultural Studies at New York University and graduated with an MFA from Yale University. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2014); Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York (2013), the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (2012), Des Moines Art Center, Iowa (2012), The Menil Collection, Houston (2012), Artpace, San Antonio, TX (2012), the Studio Museum, Harlem (2010), The Kitchen, New York (2010), the Center for Curatorial Studies and Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY (2009) and la><art, Los Angeles (2006). She has participated in numerous group exhibitions at institutions internationally including the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2014), Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2014), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2013), Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2012). Hewitt has also participated in several biennials including the Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Sweden (2015) and the 2008 Whitney Biennial, New York. Leslie Hewitt lives and works in New York City.
Bradford Marcel Young (born in Louisville, KY, 1977), award-winning cinematographer, created a three-channel video installation titled Bynum Cutler (2014) inspired by late playwright August Wilson, installed with Creative Time's Funk, God, Jazz, and Medicine: Black Radical Brooklyn (2014). Young studied film at Howard University, where he was influenced by Haile Gerima. He was director of photography on the feature films White Lies, Black Sheep (2007), Pariah (2011), Restless City (2011), Middle of Nowhere (2012), Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013), and Mother of George (2013). He has won Cinematography Awards at the Sundance Film Festival twice: in 2011, for his work on Pariah, and in 2013 for his work on both Mother of George and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. Young’s collaborations with artist Leslie Hewitt have been exhibited at The Kitchen, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Menil Collection, Des Moines Art Center, the MCA Chicago, and Lofoten International Arts Festival, Norway. Young is currently Director of Photography on J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, and recently finished shooting on Ed Zwick’s Pawn Sacrifice.
1, 2 Miriam Hansen, Cinema and Experience: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, 2012.