James Hyde is an influential and respected contemporary artist who often employs unconventional materials when painting that range from plaster, nylon, chrome, and steel to styrofoam, glass, and more recently, photography. His practice has been described as an "exploration of physicality" in his experimentations with different textures and planes that often re-evaluate and expand the limits and boundaries of painting. 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 his recent works, he utilizes abstraction to break photography’s semantic hold on the way we construct an image of the world.
"I think painting is never entirely about being a painted object, nor a medium in the narrow sense. I think painting is, as well, a symbolic and allegorical situation that happens to be made by a particular medium and set of materials. And really as a painter I’ve tried to put pressure on what a painting is and rethink it in different ways. And that’s how I end up with such different ways of looking at various possibilities, especially in terms of abstract painting."
Hyde has worked in New York City since the early 1980s. His works are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Brooklyn Museum, the Albright Knox Museum, Buffalo, New York, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. (acquired by the National Gallery of Art), among others. Hyde is a recipient of the Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 2008, the Pollock-Krasner Grant in 2011, the Joan-Mitchell Foundation Fellowship in 2000 and the New York State CAPS Grant in 1982. He exhibits internationally and has shown with Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, Schau Ort, Zurich, Switzerland, Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire, Paris, France and David Risley Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark, among numerous institutions and galleries.
Recent solo and group exhibitions include James Hyde: GROUND, Luis De Jesus Los Angeles; 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.
In other words, Hyde forces us to look with fresh eyes through visual propositions that challenge our habits of seeing. At times he achieves astonishing poetry. A good example in the show is Goddess (2020), which brings together acrylic and acrylic dispersion painted over an inkjet print. The painting reads as abstract, until you begin to notice the presence of the photographic image beneath. However, Hyde obviates any attempt to clearly interpret this image by painting over it.
In our culture we find “space” everywhere. It is prevalent as a type of background noise in our speech and writing. Space is taught in geometry, physics, architecture, and even in psychology, with terms like “personal space” and “psychological space.” The (often subliminal) purpose of adding space to terms that stand-alone is to make those terms more passive, and to give the term’s user distance from the subject.
Entering James Hyde’s show at Luis De Jesus, one immediately wonders: What sort of pictures are these? At first glance, it is difficult to determine whether the expansive images are manual or mechanical, painterly or photographic. Materially, they are hybrids. Each canvas is inkjet-printed with one or more intricately detailed landscape photos that are subsequently covered, divided and framed by abstract hand-painted curves and circles suggestive of Minimalist and Color Field painting.
Perceptual psychologists have long dismissed the notion that our brain records images like a camera; seeing is an interactive process of grazing, in a visual field that extends around us on all sides, rather than a series of flat images projected to a single point. Yet photographic images retain special authority as records of visual experience. In his current exhibition, James Hyde undertakes to dislodge this persistent prejudice.
FAITH, a hot-button issue in the political arena these days, is the subject of a messy, restless new exhibition at Real Art Ways in Hartford. The exhibition, organized by James Hyde from New York, with assistance from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation and others, consists of artworks in all media by a dozen artists. Some of the artists, like Matt Collishaw, Patty Chang and Josiah McElheny, are rising stars. This is a fashionable show.
Such exhibitions are always hard to find, but there’s one on view now at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College here in upstate New York. Consisting mostly of paintings, and with work by 60 artists, it’s called “The Jewel Thief.” Piece by piece it’s a modest affair, but as an ensemble it’s vibrant. It makes even minimally interesting components feel vivacious... The surface of a Styrofoam bench by James Hyde incorporates photographic details of a Stuart Davis painting.
PHONG BUI (RAIL): I think the first time I was exposed to your work was in 1989 at the John Good gallery, where Chris [Martin] had his show a year later, which was the first time I was exposed to his work. What I remember from your show was a group of frescoes painted on all kinds of materials: glass, slate, wood, medium-density board, and so on. They were installed quite irregularly.
So it started with admiration....Well, I never wanted to paint like him, but he did get me into dealing with language in art. I was always interested in the way he seemed to go from shape to sign, using letters as an intermediary step in that process. The paintings you see here in my studio are also based on Davis, though they’re a bit different from the ones at the Boiler because they incorporate actual words. There is a type of reading involved, which is a way of looking at something while not looking at the same time.
James Hyde is a painter who can rarely contain himself within two dimensions. His semiotic explorations of the medium have taken him in the direction of paint filled Plexiglass vitrines that approach the condition of sculptural installation, Styrofoam supports as deep as they are high or wide, and furniture. When he does play within a conventional painting support, as often as not found objects are affixed. But he will as good as ask you to step outside if you question his membership of the painting guild.
Consisting of thick lashings of acrylic over humongous vinyl prints of details taken from 1930s Stuart Davis canvases, [James] Hyde’s muscular manipulations (he used a housepainter’s roller) pay homage to an underappreciated American modernist while supersizing issues of influence, quotation, and sampling. A feat that owes something to James Rosenquist’s literal magnification of pop culture, Hyde’s riffs on abstract painting scale up the impacts of gestural rhythm with Times Square results.
The effectiveness of UNBUILT is less the result of mercy than rigor. What the viewer sees upon breaching Southfirst’s gallery is a salon-style wall of rectilinear, mostly flat paintings of various sizes. But from the outward noise, an internal structure begins to emerge. The majority of the pieces originate in photographic images of building skeletons, which Hyde, depending on one’s point of view, embellishes, reworks, conceals, defiles, augments, punctuates, comments on, or contributes to, by painting over them.
James Hyde paints blocks of color a la Hans Hofmann on a wide swath of indoor carpeting. Roxy Paine dips a small canvas in cool white paint until what look like icicles hang from its lower edge, and Bruce Pearson gives a monochrome coating to a large panel of Styrofoam with labyrinthine trails (they look like they could have been carved by giant termites).
["Painting Outside Painting," the 44th Biennial Exhibition of contemporary American painting at the Corcoran Gallery of Art] aims to provide an update on the perennial desire among painters to take painting beyond itself, that is, the compulsion to stretch the medium's physical limits and prod its conventions with unorthodox materials and techniques... Among those who take painting's basic formula to extremes, the most interesting is James Hyde, who paints with a gestural flair in oil on glass or in fresco on big blocks of Styrofoam that wittily conjure chunks of plaster cut from the monumental walls that challenged the fresco painters of old.