June 25, 2021–May 30, 2022, Dia Bridgehampton
Dia presents a yearlong installation by artist Maren Hassinger at Dia Bridgehampton, New York. Spanning five decades, the artist’s wide-ranging practice examines intersections between ecology, humanity, and identity. Hassinger, who lived in East Hampton and taught at Stony Brook Southampton on Long Island during the 1990s, has created a site-specific installation for Dia Bridgehampton.
The installation on the first floor features a series of hanging fabric panels, each of which is printed with an image of one of the artist’s bush sculptures and sized to the exact measurements of the sole exposed window in the gallery. For this new work, Hassinger has chosen to use documentation of her outdoor installation Circle of Bushes, which was organized by Long Island University, C. W. Post Campus, Brookville, New York, in 1991. Although the original installation consisted of five bush sculptures arranged in a circle, Hassinger has selected a photograph that gives focus to the details of a singular sculpture. The image has been printed on multiple, diaphanous fabric panels, which are suspended and organized in a grid. Facing the entrance to the gallery, the series of panels resembles a field or forest.
Installed on Dia Bridgehampton’s back lawn and visible through the gallery window is a new bush sculpture, Hassinger’s first such work in several years. Anchored into the ground with concrete, the work is made of lengths of galvanized steel rope and arranged like a bundle of twigs. Though the form extends up and out of the earth, evoking and imitating organic growth, the unbound metal ropes point to both a loss of the natural and a concurrent undoing of the industrial.
Maren Hassinger at Dia Bridgehampton is made possible by generous support from Farfetch. Additional support is provided by the Fuhrman Family Foundation, Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis, and the Ronald and Jo Carole Lauder Foundation.
For her new exhibition at Dia Bridgehampton, Maren Hassinger has created a site-specific installation titled The Window (2021) that engages the interior gallery space as well as the outdoor grounds. The artist lived in East Hampton and taught at Stony Brook Southampton on Long Island during the 1990s. For this exhibition, she revisited her history in the area. Spanning five decades, Hassinger’s wide-ranging practice addresses ideas of ecology, human connectivity, and identity. Her work encompasses fiber arts, installation, performance, and sculpture, often invoking elements of all four at once. Hassinger frequently repurposes industrial steel cable, which she unravels and then twists to create upright, bush-like sculptures about the size of a person. The artist has returned to these forms, which have been integral conceptual and formal elements of her practice since the 1970s, as the foundation of this exhibition.
Hassinger first encountered steel cable in a junkyard in the 1970s, while she was pursuing a master’s degree in fiber arts at the University of California, Los Angeles. She began experimenting with unwinding the material, which is woven from thick, inflexible steel threads that mimic rope. This process, and an interest in social and natural environments, led her to sculpt the cable into organic forms. Twelve Trees #2 (1979), an early outdoor work installed along the San Diego Freeway in Los Angeles, consists of a row of wire sculptures twisted to resemble the titular plants. Two years later, Hassinger conceived On Dangerous Ground (1981), a seminal installation at Los Angeles County Museum of Art of twenty-one four-foot-high bushes made of metal cable that protrude in all directions into the space. Despite resembling sheaves of grain in form, the presentation with its unique material and shape forced visitors to gingerly and attentively move around the tightly packed works. The artist has returned frequently to these frenetic bush sculptures over the course of her practice. While living on Long Island, she realized the indoor installation Bushes (1996), which paired a large wire bush with a smaller counterpart, shown as part of the group exhibition Volume: 6 Contemporary Sculptors at Guild Hall Museum in East Hampton.
For The Window, the artist uses documentation from her 1991 outdoor installation Circle of Bushes, which was organized by Long Island University, C. W. Post Campus, in Brookville, New York. Although the original display consisted of five bush sculptures arranged in a circle, here Hassinger selected a photograph that highlights the details of a singular bush sculpture in the foreground, with another partially visible work in the background. The installation in the ground-floor gallery of Dia Bridgehampton features a series of hanging chiffon panels, each printed with this image and sized to the exact measurements of the sole exposed window in the space. The diaphanous fabric panels are suspended from the ceiling and organized in a staggered grid. To produce these panels, Hassinger employed printmaking techniques in a nod to the etching press that artist Dan Flavin had purchased for the space in 1983. That year, with Dia Art Foundation, Flavin conceptualized the first floor of the building to house both temporary exhibitions as well as a print shop, as printmaking was a large part of his practice. Though no longer in use or available to the public, the press is kept in the building’s back room.
Facing the entrance to the gallery, the lattice of panels resembles a field or forest, confronting the viewer upon entry. They sway and flutter in response to visitors’ movements, suggesting biological proximity. Made of lightweight and semitransparent chiffon, the serial hanging panels interact with bodies as well as the wavering daylight that enters the room from the window. Neither entirely animated nor lifeless, the hangings model familiar organic scenes. Like true bushes, they yield to their environment.
Hassinger has previously explored diaphanous materials and their responsiveness to the world around them. In 2013 she created Wind, filming herself and her daughter, Ava Hassinger—both draped in gauzy white fabric—as they performed on Long Island beaches. In the video work, the pair walk, bend, and rearrange themselves, sometimes embracing, clasping hands, or holding up long swaths of material, which float and billow out behind them. Like the presentation at Dia, the bolts of fabric serve as conduits bet-ween human will and natural intervention.
Two new bush sculptures, Hassinger’s first such works in several years, are installed on the back lawn. Anchored to the ground with concrete, the works are made of threads from galvanized steel rope and arranged like bundles of twigs. Placed next to living bushes and trees, the sculptures take on new tensions, highlighting relationships between people and a changing landscape. While the forms extend up and out of the earth, evoking and imitating organic growth, the unbound metal ropes point to both a loss of the natural and a concurrent undoing of the industrial. Not confined and claustrophobic, like Hassinger’s installation of similar bush sculptures On Dangerous Ground, the works installed here nearly blend in and occasionally intertwine with branches and leaves. As the seasons change over the course of the year that the work will be on view, the surrounding vegetation will brown and fall away. However, the bush sculptures will remain—undying and perpetual—outing themselves as imposters, objects not of the land but placed within it.
While this installation is entirely new, it nevertheless references and reimagines earlier works and ideas from Hassinger’s practice. The hanging prints depict sculp-tures that no longer exist, thus serving as partial archives. They simultaneously gesture toward the present in that they are rendered on chiffon, a material new to Hassinger’s practice. Similarly, the bush sculptures do not replicate specific past works in order to serve as imitations or records. Instead, they are autonomous continuations of Hassinger’s ongoing considerations, offering newly realized versions of what the prints partially document. Together, the two parts of The Window metamorphose and further the source material of Hassinger’s past work into contemporary and discrete developments within the narrative of her career. Each half whips the other into the future while simultaneously anchoring itself within the artist’s own history.
Hassinger employs the singular window as both a separating barrier and a transformative portal. The installation is divided by the structure of the gallery itself, and thus the window links both halves at once, despite distance. Here, questions of freedom, access, and separation are woven into the work. Conceived together, the prints and sculptures juxtapose various dualities: fragile and durable, dangerous and safe, original and imitative, organic and fabricated, inside and out. As art historian Maurice Berger notes: “The conflicts inherent in Hassinger’s work remain overt and unresolved; they provoke the spectator to reestablish his or her own relationship to an aesthetic world that is, like the world at large, chaotic and fractured.”1
– Theodora Bocanegra Lang with Kelly Kivland
1 Maurice Berger, “‘The Weeds Smell Like Iron’: The Environments of Maren Hassinger,” in Maren Hassinger, 1972–1991 (Brookville, NY: Hillwood Art Museum, C. W. Post Campus, Long Island University, 1991), p. 5.
About the Artist
Maren Hassinger was born in Los Angeles in 1947. She graduated from Bennington College, Vermont, with a BA in sculpture in 1969, and from the University of California, Los Angeles, with an MFA in fiber art in 1973. While living in East Hampton in the 1990s, Hassinger was an active participant in the Long Island arts community. Her work appeared in numerous local exhibitions including Volume: 6 Contemporary Sculptors, Guild Hall, East Hampton, in 1992, and Sightings, Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, in 1994. She also realized performances such as A Day at the Beach for the Victor D’Amico Institute of Art, Amagansett, in 1995. She was a lecturer in the art department of Stony Brook Southampton from 1992 to 1997. Hassinger has completed solo presentations and projects at, among others, Aspen Art Museum, Colorado; Baltimore Museum of Art; Boca Raton Museum of Art, Florida; deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Insitution, Washington, DC. She recently retired after twenty years as the director of the Rinehart School of Sculpture, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore. Hassinger lives in New York.
The Window, 2021
Inkjet print on chiffon; galvanized steel and concrete
Courtesy the artist and Susan Inglett Gallery, New York
Maren Hassinger was born in Los Angeles in 1947. She lives and works in New York City.