Visual Arts
Duayne Hatchett's Flight Takeoff 1.
Duayne Hatchett's Flight Takeoff 1.

Duayne Hatchett at Nina Freudenheim Gallery

by / Nov. 9, 2016 12am EST

A score or so each of sculptures and paintings/drawings by esteemed long-time Buffalo artist Duayne Hatchett are currently on view at the Nina Freudenheim Gallery. Hatchett headed the UB sculpture department for 30 years from the late 1960s to late 1990s, and his elegant abstract modernist works grace several local and regional public spaces. Two separate but related sculptures in the pocket park at North and Franklin streets. Others in public spaces in Rochester and Fredonia. Another of his sculptures was recently installed on Essex Street, across from where he had his studio workshop for many years. Hatchett died last year at age ninety. 

The paintings/drawings are geometrical abstracts of thin straight lines against monotone solid background segments suggesting pieces of some deceptively simple but infinitely complex mathematical puzzle. Triangles and quadrilaterals in symmetrical patterns usually. A sense of the ancient Chinese origin tangram puzzle game in which a few basic geometrical forms—triangles and quadrilaterals—are arranged into what seem like infinite possibilities—but the object is to discover the possibilities, or better still, invent them—of representational forms. So we read/impose representation on abstraction much as we read/impose three dimensions on two. 

A few non-symmetrical abstracts veer in the direction of Op Art. Flicker movements on the canvas, or in the eye. And two examples of serrated edge trowel application gestural works. Infinity swirls of paint spread on canvas like mastic.

Enter and Exit

 The abstract sculptures, of various metals and occasional additional materials—slate, wood, plexiglass—are all table display size but in many instances with a plausible monumental quality—a formal grandiloquence—as if conceived of as prototype models for much larger versions for public access placement. They seem to say something of general interest and import, and represent some palpable situation and related conceptual idea, not literally so much as with regard to spiritual or aspirational or emotive associations. 

For example, several of the sculptures are somehow about flight. Contain the word “flight” in the title. All the flight works make formal—visual representational—reference to wings. And/or perhaps ships’ sails. But in either formal reference case—or likely both cases at once, mutually reinforcing—conceptual reference then to universal aspirational—and possibly spiritual, and indubitably emotional—ideas of freedom, release. Hope is the thing with feathers. Alternative conceptual reference: flight of imagination. The province and pursuit of the artist.

Several other pieces are essentially formally gateways, portals—here in metal but that in several cases one could envision in stone, as balanced megaliths—conceptually about openness, generous acceptance, welcome. Reflecting the artist’s personal spirit of generosity. 

And spirit of invention. Not as mere contrivance. Nor even so much to express something through the material as to allow the material to express itself, as it were. In bends and folds and wrinkles and geometry. 

Other works are totemic in character. Composed of most likely found objects. Old railroad spikes, scrap hardware, steel and iron nondescript. Sometimes arranged and welded into a vague semblance of a human figure. Or figures. In one case in apparent conversation. In another in a dance. 

Others works look like pure whimsy arrangements. Jumble arrangements. These are all youthful works, from the 1950s and 1960s. The artist early on, struggling to discover the forms in the materials he would later on learn to educe, elicit, expound. 

The Duayne Hatchett exhibit continues through November 23.

 Duayne Hatchett 
Nina Freudenheim Gallery / 140 North St, Buffalo