October 3, 2008 – January 4, 2009 Whitney Museum of American Art

Corin Hewitt
Three Months and One Day Corin Hewitt is an artist invested in the inconstancy of things. His work, always changing and evolving, seems to operate in the future tense. This establishes Hewitt’s position as that of a maker, a crucial agent in relation to his materials and equipment, whether he is weaving a basket out of colored pasta or taking a blowtorch and spray paint to a block of frozen peas. “What I need is here, and if not, I can make it here” is a pithy way of summarizing his approach to Seed Stage. The third instance of Hewitt’s relatively new investigation of performance, this work is the first to take place in a museum and the longest, occurring over a period of three months and one day. During this time, the Lobby Gallery is in constant flux as the artist engages in a series of transformations, both deliberate and improvised, to create a work that is at once an environment and a performance.

Seed Stage
Hewitt borrows from postminimalist and performance forebearers such as Gordon Matta-Clark (1943–1978) and Bruce Nauman (b. 1941), blending performance, photography, and installation. Since the 1960s, Nauman has insisted on the studio’s place at the core of his practice, seeking to expand the possibilities of what art might be in performances that take place there. Often these involve the repetition of a specific activity or action over time; in Bouncing Two Balls Between the Floor and Ceiling with Changing Rhythms (1967–68), Nauman bounced two rubber balls into a square marked in tape on his studio floor. As the performance went on, the bouncing became erratic, Nauman’s rhythm faltering and falling out of synch. Although Hewitt’s actions are less choreographed than Nauman’s, the inseparability of his studio or home from his practice is readily apparent in Seed Stage as he goes about the mundane routines of cooking meals, storing and canning vegetables, and cleaning up after himself. For the duration of the exhibition, the Museum is Hewitt’s main studio. He keeps regular museum hours, performing three days each week, and wears an apron and brown and gray work clothes as a uniform. Hewitt’s space is reminiscent of a variety of workspaces—kitchen, office, garage, cellar, and garden. His chosen props, or better yet tools, include a hot plate, compost, a refrigerator, a freezer, a bandsaw, a microwave, a panini press, a pressure cooker, and a camera. They provide the mechanisms for the taskdriven performance rituals that the artist acts out: casting, drying, wrapping, freezing, cutting, weaving, printing, shredding, composting, juicing, and canning. Hewitt allows viewers to observe him directly, in real time, through the

Installation view of Toad in a Hole: Performance #1 (Red Hook, NY), 2007. Photograph by Danielle Leventhal.

October 3, 2008 – January 4, 2009 Whitney Museum of American Art

Corin Hewitt
Three Months and One Day Corin Hewitt is an artist invested in the inconstancy of things. His work, always changing and evolving, seems to operate in the future tense. “What I need is here, and if not, I can make it here” is a pithy way of summarizing his approach to Seed Stage. This establishes Hewitt’s position as a crucial agent in relation to his materials and equipment, whether he is weaving a basket out of colored pasta or taking a blowtorch and spray paint to a block of frozen peas. The third instance of Hewitt’s relatively new investigation of performance, this work is the first to take place in a museum and the longest, occurring over a period of three months and one day. During this time, the Lobby Gallery is in constant flux as the artist engages in a series of transformations, both deliberate and improvised, to create a work that is at once an environment and a performance.

Seed Stage
Hewitt borrows from postminimalist and performance forebearers such as Gordon Matta-Clark (1943–1978) and Bruce Nauman (b. 1941), blending performance, photography, and installation. Since the 1960s, Nauman has insisted on the studio’s place at the core of his practice, seeking to expand the possibilities of what art might be in performances that take place there. Often these involve the repetition of a specific activity or action over time; in Bouncing Two Balls Between the Floor and Ceiling with Changing Rhythms (1967–68), Nauman bounced two rubber balls into a square marked in tape on his studio floor. As the performance went on, the bouncing became erratic, Nauman’s rhythm faltering and falling out of synch. Although Hewitt’s actions are less choreographed than Nauman’s, the inseparability of his studio or home from his practice is readily apparent in Seed Stage as he goes about the mundane routines of cooking meals, storing and canning vegetables, and cleaning up after himself. For the duration of the exhibition, the Museum is Hewitt’s main studio. He keeps regular museum hours, performing three days each week, and wears an apron and brown and gray work clothes as a uniform. Hewitt’s space is reminiscent of a variety of workspaces—kitchen, office, garage, cellar, and garden. His chosen props, or better yet tools, include a hot plate, compost, a refrigerator, a freezer, a bandsaw, a microwave, a panini press, a pressure cooker, and a camera. They provide the mechanisms for the taskdriven performance rituals that the artist acts out: casting, drying, wrapping, freezing, cutting, weaving, printing, shredding, composting, juicing, and canning. Hewitt allows viewers to observe him directly, in real time, through the

Installation view of Toad in a Hole: Performance #1 (Red Hook, NY), 2007. Photograph by Danielle Leventhal.

Installation view of Weavings: Performance #2 (Portland, OR), 2007. Photograph by Dan Kvitka.

Legacy, 2005. Cast city street sweepings, bronze beard, 24 x 10 x 1 inches. Collection of the artist; courtesy Taxter & Spengemann, New York.

85 Union Street, 2003. Cast dirt, cast conifer needles, and mixed media, dimensions variable. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from E. Dennis and Katherine Christie, Cowles Charitable Trust, Barbara Henderson, Mike Lefkowitz, Sharon and Thurson Twigg-Smith, Alexandra Wolcott, and Peter Wuenschmann.

85 Union Street (detail), 2003.

apertures in the corners of the room. Seed Stage is not a communal space, however; our view of him is partial, almost voyeuristic. Such limited views are a recurrent motif in Hewitt’s work. Small cracks in 85 Union Street (2003), his cast-dirt miniaturized replica of the crashed space station Skylab, contains interior dioramas of Hewitt’s grandmother’s living room and kitchen. The dirt used in this work was

extracted from the land beneath his family’s home in Vermont, thus imbuing the sculptural form with a sense of both past and place. Dirt, which also figures heavily in Seed Stage, is a symbol for Hewitt of elemental transformation. In an earlier work, Legacy (2006), he cast detritus that had been swept from New York streets during the course of a week into a freestanding rainbow. Seed Stage, a selfcontained, efficient system evocative of Buckminster Fuller’s (1895–1983) designs for sustainable good living, also depends on reuse. It includes an apparatus for composting both food and photographic prints; waterfiltration and refrigerator cooling systems; convertible, custom-built, multi-purpose stairs and shelves; and devices for the continual recycling of a range of organic and inorganic materials, from food to Plasticine. Other tools evoke Hewitt’s artistic predecessors: his bandsaw calls to mind the Sawzall implement Matta-Clark used for cutting and splitting anything from stacks of paper to actual walls, while his kitchen appliances recall MattaClark’s culinary experiments at Food Restaurant. Hewitt’s motions, as he navigates the space and employs his tools, are mundane and antispectacular. But a certain drama pervades the banality: we are witnessing not only everyday life but a theater of the transmutable. Underneath the stage of Seed Stage is a custom-built root cellar that houses the various vegetables Hewitt eats, including potatoes, cabbage, carrots, beets, leeks, hot peppers,

Installation view of Weavings: Performance #2 (Portland, OR), 2007. Photograph by Dan Kvitka.

Legacy, 2005. Cast city street sweepings, bronze beard, 24 x 10 x 1 inches. Collection of the artist; courtesy Taxter & Spengemann, New York.

85 Union Street, 2003. Cast dirt, cast conifer needles, and mixed media, dimensions variable. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from E. Dennis and Katherine Christie, Cowles Charitable Trust, Barbara Henderson, Mike Lefkowitz, Sharon and Thurson Twigg-Smith, Alexandra Wolcott, and Peter Wuenschmann.

85 Union Street (detail), 2003.

apertures in the corners of the room. Seed Stage is not a communal space, however; our view of him is partial, almost voyeuristic. Such limited views are a recurrent motif in Hewitt’s work. Small cracks in 85 Union Street (2003), his cast-dirt miniaturized replica of the crashed space station Skylab, contains interior dioramas of Hewitt’s grandmother’s living room and kitchen. The dirt used in this work was

extracted from the land beneath his family’s home in Vermont, thus imbuing the sculptural form with a sense of both past and place. Dirt, which also figures heavily in Seed Stage, is a symbol for Hewitt of elemental transformation. In an earlier work, Legacy (2006), he cast detritus that had been swept from New York streets during the course of a week into a freestanding rainbow. Seed Stage, a selfcontained, efficient system evocative of Buckminster Fuller’s (1895–1983) designs for sustainable good living, also depends on reuse. It includes an apparatus for composting both food and unwanted photographic prints; waterfiltration and refrigerator cooling systems; convertible, custom-built, multi-purpose stairs and shelves; and devices for the continual recycling of a range of organic and inorganic materials, from food to Plasticine. Other tools evoke Hewitt’s artistic predecessors: his bandsaw, used to cut wood, calls to mind the Sawzall implement Matta-Clark used for cutting and splitting anything from stacks of paper to actual walls, while his kitchen appliances recall MattaClark’s culinary experiments at Food Restaurant. Hewitt’s motions, as he navigates the space and employs his tools, are mundane and antispectacular. But a certain drama pervades the banality: we are witnessing not only everyday life but a theater of the transmutable. Underneath the stage of Seed Stage is a custom-built root cellar that houses the various vegetables Hewitt eats, including potatoes, cabbage, carrots, beets,

Installation view of Weavings: Performance #2 (Portland, OR), 2007. Photograph by Dan Kvitka.

Legacy, 2005. Cast city street sweepings, bronze beard, 24 x 10 x 1 inches. Collection of the artist; courtesy Taxter & Spengemann, New York.

85 Union Street, 2003. Cast dirt, cast conifer needles, and mixed media, dimensions variable. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from E. Dennis and Katherine Christie, Cowles Charitable Trust, Barbara Henderson, Mike Lefkowitz, Sharon and Thurson Twigg-Smith, Alexandra Wolcott, and Peter Wuenschmann.

85 Union Street (detail), 2003.

apertures in the corners of the room. Seed Stage is not a communal space, however; our view of him is partial, almost voyeuristic. Such limited views are a recurrent motif in Hewitt’s work. Small cracks in 85 Union Street (2003), his cast-dirt miniaturized replica of the crashed space station Skylab, contains interior dioramas of Hewitt’s grandmother’s living room and kitchen. The dirt used in this work was
8

extracted from the land beneath his family’s home in Vermont, thus imbuing the sculptural form with a sense of both past and place. Dirt, which also figures heavily in Seed Stage, is a symbol for Hewitt of elemental transformation. In an earlier work, Legacy (2006), he cast detritus that had been swept from New York streets during the course of a week into a freestanding rainbow. Seed Stage, a selfcontained, efficient system evocative of Buckminster Fuller’s (1895–1983) designs for sustainable good living, also depends on reuse. It includes an apparatus for composting both food and unwanted photographic prints; waterfiltration and refrigerator cooling systems; convertible, custom-built, multi-purpose stairs and shelves; and devices for the continual recycling of a range of organic and inorganic materials, from food to Plasticine. Other tools evoke Hewitt’s artistic predecessors: his bandsaw, used to cut wood, calls to mind the Sawzall implement Matta-Clark used for cutting and splitting anything from stacks of paper to actual walls, while his kitchen appliances recall MattaClark’s culinary experiments at Food Restaurant. Hewitt’s motions, as he navigates the space and employs his tools, are mundane and antispectacular. But a certain drama pervades the banality: we are witnessing not only everyday life but a theater of the transmutable. Underneath the stage of Seed Stage is a custom-built root cellar that houses the various vegetables Hewitt eats, including potatoes, cabbage, carrots, beets,

Untitled #7 from Toad in a Hole: Performance #1 (Red Hook, NY). Chromogenic print, 23 x 17 1/4 inches. Collection of the artist; courtesy Taxter & Spengemann, New York.

Untitled #50 from Weavings: Performance #2 (Portland, OR), 2007. Chromogenic print, 16 x 24 inches. Miller Meigs Collection.

and squash. These plants are pulled out, inspected, and incorporated into his daily improvised tasks. Symbols of life and rebirth, seeds embody the artist’s investigation of ongoing transformation. Seed Stage also explores the related theme of preservation, proposing an analogy between the root cellar as an enclosure for new life and the Museum as a container for art. Hewitt intentionally borrows the inverted ziggurat design, reiterating it in the receding rolling shelves that hold preserved vegetables and in the staircase that converts into a base and backdrop for some of his actions. The artist traces his recuperation of the ancient shape back to Constantine Brancusi’s sculpture Prodigal Son (1914; Philadelphia Museum of Art) as seen through Marcel Breuer’s Whitney design. How is it possible to gain perspective on the cyclical stages of growth and decay, life and death? The photograph. In juxtaposing the real with the artificial, and preserving both over time, the photograph encapsulates Hewitt’s collagist vision of a microcosmic world. Taken with a variety of cameras, from Polaroid to large-format, his photographs, like the interior scheme, evolve in complexity as the environment grows. They are successively added to the wall outside the room throughout the course of the exhibition, surrounding the structure with a record of Hewitt’s activity and lending a sense of intimacy to Seed Stage. Hewitt’s still lifes borrow the pictorial vocabulary of specialist pursuits as varied as

Untitled #9 from Weavings: Performance #2 (Portland, OR), 2007. Chromogenic print, 16 x 24 inches. Miller Meigs Collection.

Untitled #53 from Weavings: Performance #2 (Portland, OR), 2007. Chromogenic print, 16 x 24 inches. Miller Meigs Collection.

Russian food photography and Ikebana flower arranging, and it is often difficult to determine their subjects: Is that a mold of a pear or an actual pear? A real fried egg or a plastic egg? Hewitt frequently repurposes his photographs—incorporating a Polaroid

Untitled #7 from Toad in a Hole: Performance #1 (Red Hook, NY). Chromogenic print, 23 x 17 1/4 inches. Collection of the artist; courtesy Taxter & Spengemann, New York.

Untitled #50 from Weavings: Performance #2 (Portland, OR), 2007. Chromogenic print, 16 x 24 inches. Miller Meigs Collection.

and squash. These plants are pulled out, inspected, and incorporated into his daily improvised tasks. Symbols of life and rebirth, seeds embody the artist’s investigation of ongoing transformation. Seed Stage also explores the related theme of preservation, proposing an analogy between the root cellar as an enclosure for new life and the Museum as a container for art. Hewitt intentionally borrows the inverted ziggurat design, reiterating it in the receding rolling shelves that hold preserved vegetables and in the staircase that converts into a base and backdrop for some of his actions. The artist traces his recuperation of the ancient shape back to Constantine Brancusi’s sculpture Prodigal Son (1914; Philadelphia Museum of Art) as seen through Marcel Breuer’s Whitney design. How is it possible to gain perspective on the cyclical stages of growth and decay, life and death? The photograph. In juxtaposing the real with the artificial, and preserving both over time, the photograph encapsulates Hewitt’s collagist vision of a microcosmic world. Taken with a variety of cameras, from Polaroid to large-format, his photographs, like the interior scheme, evolve in complexity as the environment grows. They are successively added to the wall outside the room throughout the course of the exhibition, surrounding the structure with a record of Hewitt’s activity and lending a sense of intimacy to Seed Stage. Hewitt’s still lifes borrow the pictorial vocabulary of specialist pursuits as varied as
15

Untitled #9 from Weavings: Performance #2 (Portland, OR), 2007. Chromogenic print, 16 x 24 inches. Miller Meigs Collection.

Untitled #53 from Weavings: Performance #2 (Portland, OR), 2007. Chromogenic print, 16 x 24 inches. Miller Meigs Collection.

Russian food photography and Ikebana flower arranging, and it is often difficult to determine their subjects: Is that a mold of a pear or an actual pear? A real fried egg or a plastic egg? Hewitt frequently repurposes his photographs—incorporating a Polaroid

Untitled #7 from Toad in a Hole: Performance #1 (Red Hook, NY). Chromogenic print, 23 x 17 1/4 inches. Collection of the artist; courtesy Taxter & Spengemann, New York.

Untitled #50 from Weavings: Performance #2 (Portland, OR), 2007. Chromogenic print, 16 x 24 inches. Miller Meigs Collection.

and squash. These plants are pulled out, inspected, and incorporated into his daily improvised tasks. Symbols of life and rebirth, seeds embody the artist’s investigation of ongoing transformation. Seed Stage also explores the related theme of preservation, proposing an analogy between the root cellar as an enclosure for new life and the Museum as a container for art. Hewitt intentionally borrows the inverted ziggurat design, reiterating it in the receding rolling shelves that hold preserved vegetables and in the staircase that converts into a base and backdrop for some of his actions. The artist traces his recuperation of the ancient shape back to Constantine Brancusi’s sculpture Prodigal Son (1914–15; Philadelphia Museum of Art) as seen through Marcel Breuer’s Whitney design. How is it possible to gain perspective on the cyclical stages of growth and decay, life and death? The photograph. In juxtaposing the real with the artificial, and preserving both over time, the photograph encapsulates Hewitt’s collagist vision of a microcosmic world. Taken with a variety of cameras, from Polaroid to large-format, his photographs, like the interior scheme, evolve in complexity as the environment grows. They are successively added to the wall outside the room throughout the course of the exhibition, surrounding the structure with a record of Hewitt’s activity and lending a sense of intimacy to Seed Stage. Hewitt’s still lifes borrow the pictorial vocabulary of specialist

Untitled #9 from Weavings: Performance #2 (Portland, OR), 2007. Chromogenic print, 16 x 24 inches. Miller Meigs Collection.

Untitled #53 from Weavings: Performance #2 (Portland, OR), 2007. Chromogenic print, 16 x 24 inches. Miller Meigs Collection.

pursuits as varied as 1950s Russian food photography and Ikebana flower arranging, and it is often difficult to determine their subjects: Is that a mold of a pear or an actual pear? A real fried egg or a plastic egg? Hewitt frequently repurposes his photographs—incorporating a Polaroid into a still-life composition, for

example, or using an inkjet print as a placemat for food. Such layering, reminiscent of the workings of the compost, offers new and sometimes disturbing visions of the familiar. “The enemy is a mode of seeing which thinks it knows in advance what is worth looking at and what is not: against that, the image presents the constant surprise of things seen for the first time,” Hewitt writes about such transformations. Another tool of special significance in Seed Stage is the color chart. Computer printouts of the spectrum run along the top perimeter of the room, a reminder of the possibility of completing the total visual experience. Below, neutral, inorganic grays and browns, created by mixing together old batches of discarded designer paint and decomposing organic matter, are applied to the compost bin, stage platform, and stairs. Their sharp juxtaposition against the rich color of the vegetables and the artificial palette of the Plasticine serves as a metaphor for a relationship that underpins much of Hewitt’s work—that of the part to the whole. Hewitt also uses plaid, printed from his laptop or found in discarded

swatches of fabric, as a backdrop for some of his photographs. The patterns seem to absorb and reflect the objects on top of them, their colors apparently mutating along with rotting vegetables and growing seeds. The result is a still life of messy hybridity and striking beauty. It might seem odd to title an essay about ideas of endlessness with a temporal bracketing: three months and one day. Yet time is a powerful and inevitable overseer of this work. Hewitt’s improvisation depends on reproduction, regurgitation, and continual transformation. As each step forward depends on what has come before, the past, present, and future merge, becoming interdependent and ultimately indistinguishable. Where Seed Stage goes next is equally diffuse. The food gets eaten or composted, the jars and appliances salvaged or reshelved in his studio for the next time, and the photographs preserved as a record of transience. Possibility lies in seeing the parts and the whole as they truly are: open-ended. Tina Kukielski senior curatorial assistant

Corin Hewitt (b. 1971) was born in Vermont and now divides his time between there and New York. He holds a BA from Oberlin College, Ohio, and attended the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Kunste, Karlsruhe, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, before receiving his MFA from the Milton Avery School of the Arts at Bard College in 2007. Hewitt has exhibited throughout the United States and Europe. His work is in public collections, including the Whitney and the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo. Cover and inserts: These process images were taken at the artist’s home and studio in East Corinth, Vermont, from June–August 2008. Photographs by Corin Hewitt and Molly McFadden. THE CONTEMPORARY SERIES Whitney Museum of American Art 945 Madison Ave at 75th Street New York, NY 10021 Support for this exhibition is provided by Judi Roaman, Oliver Kamm, Suzanne Feldman, and Taxter & Spengmann. Special thanks to Build it Green! NYC
© 2008 Whitney Museum of American Art

into a still-life composition, for example, or using an inkjet print as a placemat for food. Such layering, reminiscent of the workings of the compost, offers new and sometimes disturbing visions of the familiar. “The enemy is a mode of seeing which thinks it knows in advance what is worth looking at and what is not: against that, the image presents the constant surprise of things seen for the first time,” Hewitt writes about such transformations. Another tool of special significance in Seed Stage is the color chart. Computer printouts of the spectrum run along the top perimeter of the room, a reminder of the possibility of completing the total visual experience. Below, neutral, inorganic grays and browns, created by mixing together old batches of discarded designer paint and decomposing organic matter, are applied to the compost bin, stage platform, and stairs. Their sharp juxtaposition against the rich color of the vegetables and the artificial palette of the Plasticine serves as a metaphor for a relationship that underpins much of Hewitt’s work—that of the part to the

whole. Hewitt also uses plaid, printed from his laptop or found in discarded swatches of fabric, as a backdrop for some of his photographs. The patterns seem to absorb and reflect the objects on top of them, their colors apparently mutating along with rotting vegetables and growing seeds. The result is a still life of messy hybridity and striking beauty. It might seem odd to title an essay about ideas of endlessness with a temporal bracketing: three months and one day. Yet time is a powerful and inevitable overseer of this work. Hewitt’s improvisation depends on reproduction, regurgitation, and continual transformation. As each step forward depends on what has come before, the past, present, and future merge, becoming interdependent and ultimately indistinguishable. Where Seed Stage goes next is equally diffuse. The food gets eaten or composted, the jars and appliances salvaged or reshelved in his studio for the next time, and the photographs preserved as a record of transience. Possibility lies in seeing the parts and the whole as they truly are: open-ended. Tina Kukielski senior curatorial assistant

Corin Hewitt (b. 1971) was born in Vermont and now divides his time between there and New York. He holds a BA from Oberlin College, Ohio, and attended the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Kunste, Karlsruhe, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, before receiving his MFA from the Milton Avery School of the Arts at Bard College in 2007. Hewitt has exhibited throughout the United States and Europe. His work is in public collections, including the Whitney and the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo. Cover and inserts: These process images were taken at the artist’s home and studio in East Corinth, Vermont, from June–August 2008. Photographs by Corin Hewitt and Molly McFadden. THE CONTEMPORARY SERIES Whitney Museum of American Art 945 Madison Ave at 75th Street New York, NY 10021 Support for this exhibition is provided by Judi Roaman, Oliver Kamm, Suzanne Feldman, and Taxter & Spengmann. Special thanks to Build it Green! NYC
© 2008 Whitney Museum of American Art

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful