GROUND follows his 20-year survey at Palazzo Farnese in Piacenza, Italy, and is his first Los Angeles solo exhibition in two decades. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog that features interviews by curator Lucía Sanromán and artist Lucas Blalock.
An influential and respected figure, Hyde uses the flat field of painting as a topological arena that ties together the physical substance of painting and the ground on which it is laid, extracting spatial dimensions and new meanings from this relationship. In these increasingly direct works, he utilizes abstraction to break photography’s semantic hold on the way we construct an image of the world.
Hyde looks to the ideas of Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson and their concept of the site and non-site. By framing the natural landscape within the artificial, associations attached to both nature photography and abstract painting are unpacked and deconstructed. As discussed with Lucía Sanromán, “By framing the photograph within the ‘objectness’ of painting…a type of painterly suspicion is created in the photograph”.
Beginning in 2009 Hyde took to the hills of California to photograph the vistas and great panoramas off Interstate 5. Coming from New York, Hyde was struck by the openness and vast perspectives of the California landscape. Two years later he revisited the sites he first photographed, including Pyramid Lake and the oak trees depicted in the series.
The title GROUND resonates with the descriptive photography of western landscapes. In the painting context, the ground is the active place on which painting occurs. Hyde uses a home brewed paint for these works, consisting of pigment dispersed in acrylic mediums, and in most cases that pigment is a form of ground earth. In turn, Hyde’s photographs follow a “light-room” process developed in the computer, distorting and adjusting it and challenging the notion of any factual naturalism.
Resisting genres and traversing mediums, Hyde investigates the abstract gesture in relationship to photography. His opposition to the "realism" of digital photography, placed against the colors of abstracted shapes, snaps photography into place, making it a site, a location, and naturalizing it as a pictorial fact while reframing the question of the truthfulness of photography.
In CLEARING, a photograph of an oak tree is centered in a tondo of minimalist gray. Painted in acrylic dispersion, the bands of gray usurp the austerity of the photograph, literally turning it on its head. Conjuring distances within the plains depicted in CHANNELS and WASH, the foregrounded layers of painted shapes act as iterations of perspective, stepping beyond the material flatness of painting interventions into the background of landscapes.
“These works undermine an unquestioned authority of photography as a prosthesis for seeing,” say Hyde, “meaning that today we believe that we actually see like the camera—the model is our eyesight mimics the prosthesis rather than the other way around. This analogy that the camera is our eye, I want to put pressure on that, because it is not true. Our eyes are emotional muscles. …By putting pressure on the narrowness of abstract painting through photography, I would hope both become more vibrant in terms of what each is at its root, even as the technical grounds of how we look at the world are changing.”
Hyde further explains: “I think what is essential for painting to become real and vibrant is for it to embrace some form of otherness. With more traditional paintings it’s drawing that is this Other, but it could be poetry, landscape, ideology or sculpture. It is through taking up these others that painting can develop perspective and become real in itself. In this group of works photography is the “other” that defines them as painting; that allows it to become painting.”
James Hyde has exhibited widely in the United States and Europe. His works are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY; Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Weatherspoon Art Museum, University of North Carolina Greensboro, NC; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO; Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, NY; Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH; San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA; Museo Cantonale d’Arte, Lugano, Switzerland; and Musee Fabre, Montpellier, France, among others. He is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including the Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship in 2000 and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008. Hyde is presently Faculty Critic at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Recent solo and group exhibitions include James Hyde: Survey, Magazzini, Pianello Val Tidone, Italy; SITElines 2014: Unsettled Landscapes, SITE Santa Fe, NM; Six Works Around a Dam, David Risley Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark; PAINT THINGS: Beyond the Stretcher, deCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA; The Road, Luis De Jesus, Los Angeles, CA; Live Principles of Ventilation and Adhesion, Villa du Parc Contemporary, Annemasse, France; Building Materials, Control Room, Los Angeles, CA; and many other venues, including Sikkema Gallery, New York, NY; Galerie Lelong, New York, NY; DC Moore Gallery, New York, NY; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA.
 Lucía Sanromán, “James Hyde,” in Unsettled Landscapes (Santa Fe: SITE Santa Fe, 2014), Pp. 138.