The Pit is pleased to announce the opening of Secret Sister, a two-person exhibition with Jessica Jackson Hutchins and Rebecca Morris. A public reception will be held at the gallery on January 7, 2018 from 4-7pm.
Secret Sister is the first exhibition to pair the work of two lifelong friends and colleagues who share similar aesthetics, world views, and unwavering commitments to their artistic practices. Jessica Jackson Hutchins’s work in sculpture pairs ceramic vessels with found furniture to create provocative tableaux that challenge received ideas of craft, domesticity, and conventional beauty. Her recent work in glass extends her exploration of materials more readily associated with artisanal fields than the arena of fine art and moves deeper into abstraction, using color and light as well as scale to create assertive yet graceful and uncanny forms. Rebecca Morris’s paintings offer up constellations of gestures that are at once familiar and strange. Her paintings are a deep investement and reflection in the medium’s elemental concerns regarding shape, color, and gesture. Morris’ compositions play with spatial hierarchies – margins, borders, the center in contrast to the edges, and so forth. Contrast itself is a foregrounding concept within her paintings and in this context creates a field for contemplation or reflection when viewed with Hutchins’ sculptures. Secret Sister is a pause amid a long and esteem-filled association between two artists who tell their story in a few anecdotes here and, most importantly, through their work.
JJH: Rebecca and I have known each other since 1996 when we met in the graduate painting office at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
RM: Jessica was a post-baccalaureate student at the School of The Art Institute. I worked in the painting office at SAIC after having finished graduate school there myself. I had gone through SAIC’s painting post-baccalaureate program and then their MFA program, and Jessica did the same just after me. People who were post-baccs first tended to have a loyalty to one another since we’d often gone to undergraduate programs in the liberal arts rather than BFA programs and needed some extra time to catch up. I had gone to Smith, and Jessica had come from Oberlin. One of the first times I remember talking with JJH about her work was when she was in graduate school. I was struck by how she was already able to harness important and personal ideas into work in a totally authentic way. It was like walking into her brain.
JJH: The fondness and respect Rebecca and I have for each other is reflected in some commonalities in our work and processes and is apparent in the pieces in Secret Sister. We have in common a penchant for the dark side; we both wander into the ugly, even the sordid, and exaggerate that with the use of cheap flash and prettiness--decorative gold and pink spray paint--like song lyrics that are blatantly cliché but still make you tear up. We share a particular humor that emerges through these gestures, and our work is full of the narrative of potential. We embrace shunned materials and unloved colors and gestures as a vocabulary of the outsider who has the freedom to look askance at culture. I would say another thing we have in common is this utter devotion to the materials, to the process of work, to the risk and investigation that is a life making art at the edges, always rooting for the underdog and each other.
RM: One moment that has meant so much to me for all of these years was Jessica’s support after my first New York solo show in 2000. I had been in Los Angeles for two years, and my work had really changed. I had upped the slop in my handling of oil paint, using it for what it did and letting it do what it wanted to do. I was also trying to make a variety of paintings that would work together in uncommon ways, heightening differences between works and expelling anything overtly pretty. The show garnered no sales and no reviews. The radio silence made the show seem invisible. The exhibition had felt so important to me, so that was hard. I remember Jessica telling me that she was really impressed with how clear and smart the new work was, that the change was really tough and brave, “very Rebecca.” She said she could see me in it. I seriously think her remarks kept me going for the next five years. This was 17 years ago, and I still think about it.
JJH: I remember that show of Rebecca’s well. I remember smiling at how the work seemed to have leapt ahead and felt so fully “Rebecca.” My respect and affection for her spilled over into the paintings and vice versa. Then years passed, and we didn’t see each other for awhile. I would see her paintings at art fairs from time to time and would see the paintings I remembered and the artist I knew becoming increasingly complicated and clear at the same time. Seeing the funny and aggressive palette of metallic and brown was like seeing Rebecca herself.
RM: When Jessica came to my studio this September to talk about our show at The Pit, we immediately started talking about when artists make their best work. I was saying painters make their best work when they are old and have been working a lifetime because it takes so long to really learn how to make a good painting. Jessica said that peoples’ early work tends to be thought of as better, edgier, what everyone always looks back to as the best, most electric. It’s pretty funny to me that two mid-career artists were having this conversation: When is the work best, in the past or in the future? What about NOW?