“An orange is orange, as well as being an orange”: Sense, Thing, and Utterance with the artist Hannah Greely

Posted: December 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

Hannah Greely: is a Los Angeles California (US) Artist who recently exhibited with the 2010 Whitney Biennial, which presented her sculpture “Silencer” (see it below).  This year was her second go at this exhibition as she was also in attendance at the 2006 Whitney Biennial: Day for Night.  In 2003 her work made their way to the overflowing, and always fun, Venice Biennale.

Secret Life of a Muffin, detail Hannah Greely, 1998

Secret Life of a Muffin, Hannah Greely, 1998

“I have a tendency to want to see the long view of the human story, to prevent the present from being too ego-driven. I’m drawn to a commonsense sort of existentialism in art, which allows me to feel that beautiful and sad moment when where I’m at now is where gobs of other people are, and have been. I can choose for that to make me feel important or insignificant or both at once.”

Hannah Greely, interview with Kathryn Hargreaves

Hannah Greely Remainder 2007 (painted bronze, quartz, bird seed)

Hannah Greely Remainder, detail 2007 (note the Bird Seed)

“”Remainder,” the bird feeder sculpture, is taking cues from what is now typical public figurative sculpture. Bronze, it seems, remains the material of choice, even though it’s no longer the cheapest or [most] efficient. The tradition of bronze at this point is an automatic assertion of a sculpture’s fine art status: so much so that for more than half of the last century, many sculptors (obviously not Jasper Johns or Giacometti) considered it too traditional to be relevant to cutting-edge contemporary art.  I’m reinvestigating the figurative bronze tradition by taking it all the way back to ancient Greek techniques, using carved stone eyes and painting the bronze to look like a person. The sculpture needs the literal and historical “weight” of bronze to keep it from being backyard kitsch, and the bronze needs to be polychromed to lighten up some of its self-importance”

Hannah Greely

Hannah Greely Silencer 2002

KH: You seem to work in a wide range of materials: “Rascal” (1999) was plasticine, “Assembly” (2001), papier mache, “Silencer” (2002), Duane-Hansen-ish molded plastic, “Muddle” (2004), coconut fiber, the beer bottles “Alice” (2004) and “Molly and Johnny” (2004) were painted resin.  You’re now working on a painted bronze.  Why do these particular materials inspire you?

HG: “An orange is orange, as well as being an orange.  “Orange” is both its subject and material. Each of my sculptures has a subject, form, and materiality that relate [to] and are dependent on each other. If I switched one material for another, like painted bronze for painted aluminum, even if it looked the same to everyone, it would lose its meaning.”

Hanna Greely Muddle 2004

“When an object is no longer useful in an obvious way, it becomes something closer to art. A ladder made of paper mache is extremely fragile. The clamor of current events printed all over the newspaper draws parallels to the fleeting business of being human. A paper mache ladder is our own perception of upward progress ready to give way at the first wrong step.”

Hannah Greely

Hanna Greely Wildfire 2003

“The lack of control in the making of things is where the art happens.”

Hannah Greely

Hannah Greely: Arm Wrestling

All quotes from Modesty Blessed: An Interview with Hannah Greely by Kathryn Hargreaves


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