Display Cases in the Great Hall

Jongil Ma
March 24, 2014 - May 3, 2014

WOLF: Constructions in Wood and Mirror by Jongil Ma

Jongil Ma is intrigued by the delicate social relationships between friends and inside social groups. As an immigrant to the United States from Korea in 1996, his continued fascination with these interactions has led him to create an art practice that embraces sculpture and installation to create interactive spaces. Working in both large-scale monumental sculpture and intimate conceptual pieces, he brings sensitivity and power to his work. Because he wants to break through the confining divisions between audience and artist, he asks a wide range of participants to bring their own concerns to transform his pieces.

As he describes in his own words: “As I observe myself changing in order to better relate to the sensitivities and subtle forms of communication of this society, I return to this fascination. I desire a way to more directly contact other people’s hidden understandings. I believe that this very particular energy creates a unique aesthetic language and evolves out of a practical need. The Wolf project begins with images I find and alter to fit different situations. In this piece I have arranged a face of wolf along with a partially assembled paper cut-out target on the mirror. As the viewer’s reflection changes and is altered within this piece, I hope that they experience a moment of participation and psychological engagement.

For years, my work’s primary focus has been large-scale woven wooden sculptural installations. In these as well as in this small-scale, model-like piece, the wood strips are subject to physical pressure and stress evoking conflicting sensations. The tension of the gracefully curved lines, delicate joints, and temporal forms speak to the fragility of human relationships as well as to the balance in nature. A partially clear translucent Plexiglas covers the piece, as if to both contain and blur its edges. The experience relates to the momentary disorientation one feels on the boundary between waking life and vivid dreaming.


Case One:
Sculpture construction in bent and woven bamboo strips, covered in plexiglass
23 5/8 x 42 x 5 inches

Case Two:
Mirror and cut paper strips
27 x 50 inches

All works Courtesy of the Artist
Curated by Lisa A. Banner


Timothy Hawkesworth
February 1, 2014 - March 17, 2014

Wishes: Horses

Timothy Hawkesworth

Horses are powerful, atavistic creatures, symbols of freedom, speed, and sensitive response. This exhibition of horse drawings spans two important dates connected to the imagery of Irish painter Timothy Hawkesworth: 1 February 2014 marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse, the seventh sign of the Chinese zodiac and an auspicious year recognizing the power and primal nature of the horse. The end date of the exhibition, 17 March marks Saint Patrick’s Day, named for the patron saint of Ireland, where Timothy Hawkesworth grew up on a farm and began his relationship with horses.

Hawkesworth’s horses are energetic and rapidly drawn with graphite over wax and paint on paper, moving from right to left, galloping, rearing, and walking with heads bowed, raised or thrown back in restless movement. Evoking the animal nature with figurative representations, like Susan Rothenberg’s horses from the 1970s, Hawkesworth infuses a personal vision in these drawings, and taps into a source of infinite fascination: domesticated animals that retain a wild and untamed spirit. Like Eadweard Muybridge’s early photographic studies of horses in motion, a series of these monochromatic drawings present a sequence of dramatic movement that belies their small size. Hawkesworth often speaks of the “rigor of wildness,” a sort of alignment with the core of creativity within oneself, or a spine that holds the energy and freedom of the creature in motion. His horses embody this concept with their delicate layering and gobs of paint dabbed onto a small paper support. With gestural strokes of graphite, he gives these tiny horses a physical weight on the page, adding substance to what are otherwise outlines extracted from memory, implying motion and freedom.

Growing up on a farm in Northern Ireland, Hawkesworth’s experience of horses informed much of how he saw the world, and how he began to respond to it through painting. Donald Kuspit has written that “Hawkesworth’s art is about the uncanniness of suffering.” In his own words, Hawkesworth gives profound emphasis to the power of the animals to transform his human response:

“I grew up short sighted - my eyes blurred with cataracts. Horses helped me see. Animals of flight, they are programmed to be well informed, ready to go, no separation between thought and action, message and response. The vibration of energy through their body, through my hands and my legs, gave me a special read on the natural world. I was taught attentiveness. How I was shown made me a painter and what I was shown, gave me my content.”


Case One: Left to Right
Small Horse Drawing #6, 2012, 4 x 6 inches
Small Horse Drawing #2, 2012, 4 x 6 inches
Small Horse Drawing #7, 2012, 4 x 6 inches
Small Horse Drawing #4, 2012, 4 x 6 inches

Case Two: Left to Right
Small Horse Drawing #5, 2012, 4 x 6 inches
Horse #4, 2012, 12 x 14 inches
Small Horse Drawing #3, 2012, 4 x 6 inches

All works are oil, graphite, and wax on paper

All works courtesy of the artist and Littlejohn ContemporaryOpen link in new window
Curated by Lisa A. Banner


Christopher Smith
November, 2013- January 17th, 2014

Alabaster and Albacore

Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith's Alabaster and Albacore is a series of lush and velvety photographic prints, showing proposed video installations in the interiors of recognizable landmarks and public spaces, including the James B. Duke House.  In this body of work Smith engages themes of transience and permanence, movement and color, nature and displacement.  

Taking elements of color and bubbles from his ongoing "Painter Project," Smith transforms them, draping them over the railings of staircases, suspending them from the skylights and floating them across the floor toward the viewer.  Using techniques attuned classic films like as director Carol Reed’s “Odd Man Out (1947, Two Cities film), Jean-Luc Godard’s “Two or Three Things I Know About Her,” (1967, Argos Films), or Martin Scorsese’s 1976 classic, “Taxi Driver,” Smith hones in on the bubbles floating in front of the camera as visual metaphors for the transience of life, the fragility of the moment. Bubbles and the splashes that rise where they pop become classic, universal and timeless metaphors placed into familiar contexts with dramatic impact.

A floor flooded with red paint and blue bubbles forms a liquid carpet sliding underfoot, lit by the fires in chandeliers and sconces along the marble walls. Smith offers an intimate scene of warmth and protection, while a narrow door opens to a sunlit window beyond, revealing a slit of green light entering the darkened room. Shadows and reflections are soaked in blood red, shimmering phosphorescent green and opaque turquoise blue.

Floating the idea of suspension and creation within these prints, and bathing it in the radiant glow of night vision goggles, Smith probes a simple mystery through these admixtures of color and form, finding creamy white or vividly colored substance in unusual places. The Alabaster series focuses on translucent white light, with hues of pale gold, flesh pink, blue and violet gleaming over edges and shaded surface, while the Albacore series presents vivid carnal colors emerging from darkness.

Each photographic print suggests a projection by the artist into a hidden interior, some clean and open, some darkened and dimly lit. Smith creates views of imagined beauty, allowing the unseen to become real. Using projection techniques, manipulating surfaces, his eye slides over domestic and public interiors. Formed with life and movement, these unusual intrusions open known spaces into fantastic and poetic new places, smooth and transparent or fleshy and potent.


Case One:  Alabaster
Left to right and top to bottom
Alabaster 002
Alabaster 004
Alabaster 001
Alabaster 005
Alabaster 004

Case Two: Albacore
Left to right and top to bottom
Albacore 001
Albacore 002
Albacore 003
Albacore 004
Albacore 005

All works courtesy of the artist
Curated by Lisa A. Banner


The inaugural exhibition:

William Smith
September 15th - October 31st

Flowers of the Sky

William Smith

Flowers of the Sky is a series of life-size botanical paintings on the folios of an 18th century astronomy text, dismantled and then reassembled into an accordion-fold artist book. The transformation of the text of James Ferguson's Astronomy Explained upon Sir Isaac Newton’s Principles (1799) began in response to a Victorian astronomy book entitled Flowers of the Sky in the archive of the John Work Garrett Library at Johns Hopkins University.

As the artist describes, the fluid yet tenuous painting on the book pages is analogous to a fragile web or distant constellation. For Smith, flowers are symbols of our selves and of nature, as well as a metaphor for the machinations of the universe. Implicitly, book folios serve as multivalent supports for the painted leaves and flowers that adorn them with color and design imposed over printed words.

In the works on view with Flowers of the Sky, William Smith manipulates the intimate setting of a book page, a small-scale print or piece of paper, and approaches landscape as a response to the pages and their text, or the words found there. At times he reveals and at times obscures the words on the page. His visual language consists of representations of reflection, dissolving surfaces, hidden meaning, and impenetrability.  Combining this language with the eloquence of a natural landscape, Smith reflects the tensions between ordered and  accidental marks, or the absence of human presence with the implicit sense of human touch in a painted surface.


Flowers of the Sky, 2003, oil paint on printed book pages from James Ferguson, Astronomy Explained upon Sir Isaac Newton’s Principles, 1799.

Also on view:

Silence, 2007, oil paint on printed book page
Untitled, 2007, oil paint on printed book page
Solitude, 2007, oil paint on printed book page
Of the Division of Time, 2007, oil paint on printed book pages:
p. 363 and p. 368

All works courtesy of the artist and Littlejohn ContemporaryOpen link in new window
Curated by Lisa A. Banner