Juan Hamilton, “Curve and Shadow, No. 2”

Juan Hamilton, “Curve and Shadow, No. 2”

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Juan Hamilton, Curve and Shadow, No. 2, 1983.

American, born 1945

Juan Hamilton’s art emerged from the synthesis of a wide, diverse range of influences and sources. The pre-Columbian pottery he saw as a youth in South America inspired his subsequent study of ceramic sculpture at Claremont Graduate University in the late 1960s with artists Henry Takemoto and Paul Soldner. Takemoto was a pivotal figure in the “California Clay Movement,” during which ceramicists moved from the production of functional objects to abstract sculptures, and Soldner developed a process of low-temperature firing inspired by the traditional Japanese raku style. Hamilton’s perspective on life and art underwent a deep transformation following his exposure to Zen Buddhism during a visit to Japan in 1970. Subsequently, this philosophy became a fundamental aspect of his artistic practice.

While his teachers belonged to an earlier generation that worked in an expressionistic, improvisatory manner, Hamilton’s work matured in the context of Minimalism, a style characterized by simple, unitary forms; a monochrome palette; and smooth, highly finished surfaces. While his work shares those Minimalist qualities, the irregular ovals and teardrop shapes of his clay pieces recall the organic forms of European modernists. Hamilton’s connection to earlier modernist art was amplified by the years he spent as a studio assistant and confidant to pioneering artist Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico, from 1973 until her death in 1986.

Hamilton conceived of his work as a way of conveying his inner state of mind: “They come from inside me,” he said. “I feel them three-dimensionally in the center of my chest.” Open and dynamic, Curve and Shadow, No. 2 represents a departure from his use of clay and stone. The sleek, aerodynamic bronze curve seems to rise from the ground like a wave, cresting and crashing abruptly back into the floor. The importance of the shadow cast by the work, an intangible feature that extends the shape of the sculpture, is emphasized in the title. Its transformation in the slowly shifting light affords a meditative experience by making perceptible the passage of time.

  • <p>Juan Hamilton, Curve and Shadow, No. 2, 1983.  Photo by Mark Menjivar.</p>
  • <p>Juan Hamilton, Curve and Shadow, No. 2, 1983.  Photo by Ben Aqua.</p>

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