Ann Hamilton American

Not on view

Over the last two decades, Hamilton has used a wide range of media-from photography and video to installations and performance-to forge new pathways of communication and affect specific to the feminine experience, based in qualities of touch, materiality, and the body. While all of her work involves a rigorous questioning of the primacy of sight among the senses, it does so paradoxically through a nearly rapturous visual beauty: installations featuring glimmering beads of water or pink powder coursing down a white wall (the latter settling over the braille dots of a Charles Reznikoff poem), or candle wax dripping from the rafters of a hollowed-out rowhouse onto an empty ledger.

abc was shown opposite one of the artist's "weeping walls" at the 1999/2000 53rd Carnegie International, and shares the same ineffable poetry as these larger, more ephemeral works. In a 26-minute loop, a wetted fingertip slowly erases a backwards alphabet; the amoeba-like form then retraces its path, "writing" the sequence forwards and in correct order. "The camera is following a lens of water," Hamilton has said, "that is the point of contact between finger and glass-it acts as a magnifier." With exquisite economy of means and hypnotic simplicity, the artist compounds modes of visual apprehension (linguistic, photographic) in order to dissolve them into the untranslatable realm of touch. As a work whose beginning is an end and vice versa, abc is also a fitting first foray into the medium of video art at the Metropolitan Museum.

abc, Ann Hamilton (American, born 1956), Single-channel digital video, transferred from Beta tape, black-and-white, silent, 13 min.

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