“Time itself is a circle,” declares an interlocutor in Friedrich Nietzsche’s 1883 work of philosophy-fiction Thus Spoke Zarathustra, providing up an elliptical shorthand for the Nineteenth-century German thinker’s doctrine of everlasting return. Questioning notions of linear progress, Nietzsche hypothesized that the identical occasions recur advert infinitum; the alternatives that we make and the angle that we undertake in response to the gravity of that data represent one thing like character.
Plato’s Closet at ASHES/ASHES, an exhibition composed of 5 oil work made in 2022 by New York artist Timothy Hull, tempers Nietzsche’s weighty musings on everlasting recurrence — in addition to his speculative theories on the apex and decline of Greek tragedy — with appreciable levity and greater than a little bit of mischief. The exhibition’s tongue-in-cheek title nods to an eponymous chain of thrift shops (the positioning of clothes’s everlasting return); it additionally alludes to the queer discourse across the classical Greek thinker Plato — who is commonly seen as apotheosizing same-sex eroticism in his early writings earlier than censuring it in later works — and the homosexuality believed to be prevalent in historical Greek tradition at massive. Upon getting into Plato’s Closet, gallery-goers encounter a Xeroxed handout that includes three closely annotated, faux-academic texts that respectively expound upon the paucity of closets within the archaeological report, current a brand new metaphysical studying of the Athenian grave-closet as a psychic area, and make clear a ritual sport that used “Trojan brooms.” Oscillating between nearly believable and gratingly ham-fisted in its language, this degraded copy pokes on the deluge of classics scholarship that floods academia because it gestures to the alternatives for artistic play and repurposing that wanting backward can pose.
Flattening previous and current with a punchy, graphic aesthetic, the work on view forged iconographic shards of antiquity as Pop artwork or vector graphics, highlighting the enduring presence of the previous within the type of emptied-out symbols to which any variety of meanings could be connected, as seen within the interpretive vary of classics scholarship. Overlapping each other in area, as if affixed to the identical closet pinboard, are depictions of urns, comedy and tragedy masks, glyphs, and pictures culled from historical ceramic fragments: Oedipus considering an absent sphinx, an admiring close-up of Dionysus, Orpheus strumming his lyre, and two males carrying a 3rd who bears a pronounced erection. These discrete icons are interspersed with imagery lifted from Hull’s earlier work, equivalent to historical Greek letters and symbols repeated to the purpose of abstraction or ornament (copies of copies); monochromes composed of neat, abutting swaths of tiny vertical and horizontal strokes, rendered with pointillist precision (a torturous course of, one imagines, for an oil painter ready for paint to dry); and pictures of watches that the artist painted within the Nineteen Eighties — which name consideration to and construct upon the assorted strata of time embedded in Hull’s work, and maybe any art-making endeavor.
One of many works on view, “The Beginning of Tragedy” (2022), lacks the collage-style aesthetic of its counterparts. The comparatively stark, balanced portray takes its title from Nietzsche’s rhapsodic e-book, revealed when the thinker was solely 27 years previous, which declared that Greek tragedy at its greatest wed the logic, construction, and kind related to the solar god Apollo with the lawlessness and unbridled ecstasy affiliated with the wine god Dionysus and his rowdy cohort (and quite a few cult followings). Impressed on the extent of composition, Hull appeared to Nietzsche’s characterization of the timeless rigidity between order and dysfunction to tell the managed chaos of his off-kilter work, whose barely askew stacked photos float in fields of subdued monochrome. In “The Beginning of Tragedy,” a single, huge, milky Greek tragedy masks floats on a darkish floor; its overwhelming whiteness, rendered in diminutive, immaculate strokes, evokes the racialized Whiteness traditionally projected onto Greek statuary, which modern students have now decided was initially brightly coloured. On both aspect of the symmetrical portray, rendered in a golden hue, is a floating circle, or the Greek letter “O,” additionally identified Omicron: maybe that’s instability sufficient.
Timothy Hull: Plato’s Closet continues at ASHES/ASHES (56 Eldridge Avenue, Decrease East Facet, Manhattan) by way of April 24. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.