Time Out New York / Apr 29–May 5, 2010

Elliot Hundley

Unless your name happens to be Cy Twombly, it must take a good deal of guts to produce epic art about classical Greek tragedy a decade into the 21st century. Yet Elliott Hundley does exactly that in the two paintings, three sculptures and three expansive collage works on display in his second New York solo exhibition, demonstrating a fulsome enthusiasm for his storied source.

Focusing in particular on Euripides’ The Bacchae, the Los Angeles artist weaves a fiendishly complex set of images, objects and textual fragments around the ancient drama. But while titling each work wholly or partially after a central character therein, he aims—sensibly—at a subjective interpretation of the play’s conceptual and emotional landscape rather than a literal illustration of its narrative.

Agave, Dionysus and Pentheus, the collages that are the show’s most absorbing components, envelop the viewer in dazzling, kaleidoscopic patchwork quilts of color and detail, each the result of a multistage layering process in which Hundley’s original photographs of unidentified performers are printed large scale on rice paper, then bejeweled with thousands of cutout words and pictures. Often these bits are affixed with long, golden pins, turning the surfaces into dazzling pincushions; in Pentheus, strategically placed magnifying glasses additionally provide selective glimpses into the depths of the work. More so than the comparatively slight canvases and freestanding pieces, this is art that repays long and repeated looking, reflecting the profundity and incompleteness—key sections of The Bacchae have been lost to time—of their formidable inspiration.

Image: Elliot Hundley, Pentheus