Andrew Hurst’s always engaging, often absolutely arresting collage and assemblage artworks challenge one to define them, to place them in fitting contexts, to dimensionalize them—no matter how beside the point such definitions and categorizations might be. It is an exploratory challenge, at root. One of peering into layers until imagined peelings reveal deeper footings. It is also a largely rewarding venture. You are there, the strata are there, go to work.
Hurst’s current solo exhibit is a particularly formidable gathering of objects begging such excavation. Reined in and arranged in a way that allows them to inhabit rather than fill the space, the artist’s most recent wall-bound and free-standing works on view at English Kills are as collectively exceptional as they are individually captivating, each piece its own sort of shrine to misty pasts and grainy ghosts, to dreams of anonymous minds, displayed like a spare array of stilled shadows in drifts of fog, enigmatic monuments culled from freeze-frames of time.
And it’s all executed with palpable elan, from the grave nether-guts of a hulking wall piece, The Adjustable Future, whose bas-relief runs nearly two feet deep; to a surface-fraught homage to forsaken analogics, SYD TV; to the balmy haunt of serpentine violence in a rich photographic work, Snake Phone.
Hurst’s solo show about a year ago had an aura of slow burn, a patina of char. In this one, the char has become more like a polish, a veneer of now gritty, now silky shine.
Yet the mood of the show is very similar. One of oneiric recollection, visions alinger in ambered pasts. Memories of things lost and dreamily recaptured come readily to mind.
So, too, albeit a bit obliquely, does E.T.A. Hoffmann’s short story “Der Sandmann,” as Hurst’s keystone sculptural work, Caballo Ballo, reads like a peculiar restructuring of relics from Spalanzani’s attic.
That’s one of the associative items that my peering into layers surfaced, at any rate. Go to English Kills to explore Hurst’s strata on your own terms. The challenge is really a win-only endeavor.
English Kills is located at 114 Forrest Street, ground floor. Andrew Hurst’s exhibition runs through May 20th.
You can follow Paul D’Agostino on Twitter @postuccio