EJ Hauser ME+YOU at Regina Rex

A while ago I saw Inventing Downtown at the Grey Art Gallery, a show revolving around the East Village artist-run galleries that emerged and flourished in 1950s, between the peak of Abstract Expressionism and the rise of Pop Art and Minimalism – a special lacuna in the art historical narrative. Tired of the art scene lockstep, artists tore away from what was timeworn and flat, and created their own. These galleries were inclusive, innovative, rough around the edges. I found the show incredibly enlightening – works from women, from artists of color, previously omitted from the canon, on display. It’s uncondensed, honest, inspiring. It illustrates a time that is terribly foreign compared to now, when the constructs of the art world have hardened, solidified. Art feels compartmentalized yet singular. Art feels commercialized and too clean. It feels dead, or playing dead.

That is why I like Regina Rex, and all other artist-run galleries that predominantly feature under-represented and overshadowed artists. The are reminiscent of what used to be, and evocative of what can be.

I liked Ej Hauser’s show. Obsessive, compulsive, repetitive art. ME + YOU. Me needs You to look at her art, You needs Me for art to look at. Exploring the relationship between artist and viewer, art and viewer, what is lost, what is created. Uninspired title, cool work.

I was interested in her paintings because they reminded me of the glitchy, pixelated drawings I would create on Microsoft Paint – random fills of color, text boxes, jagged, boxy lines, ugly color palette. Same image, multiple versions, either as separate pieces, or layered on top. Everything is fast, shifty, and skittish. Simple. Her brushstrokes exhibit speed and eagerness, a childlike haste. The making of the mark becomes the identity of the piece. It’s not what the text says, it’s what the text looks like, what forms the letters make. Like Xu Bing. Her brushstrokes have an erratic, loose quality, yet they seem intentional, and calculated. There is still structure and decision in her paintings. Although decay and disruption is conveyed through the glitch and flux of paint, it’s an instigated instability. This is where my childhood Paint master-messes differ from Hauser. I don’t feel a sense of discovery in her artwork – whereas Paint was entirely exploration and invention. But this doesn’t matter.

Perhaps it was Hauser’s intention, to reveal the intersection of hand and machine. Mechanical repetition, human manipulation. The superficiality and artificiality of the digital, the mass-produced, coinciding with the handcrafted. Attempting to create a cohesive image with discursive, disparate elements, both formal and conceptual. Very interesting, but an exhausted concept.

“Imagining Delphi” was like a crude rendition of Marsden Hartley’s work – “Portrait of a German Officer”, or “Himmel” – channeling that coloring book, fill in the fat black lines with fat blocks of color, style.

Her paintings remind me of weavings as well. Especially the looker series. Moroccan Berber rugs. Jonathan Joefsson’s rugs. Strokes like thread, chunky and square, knitted together and composing loopy, lacey shapes. Or like the insides of a sushi roll. Compact blocks of color, but in Hauser’s case, allegorical like an emblem, resembling stained glass.

I want to see/make work that doesn’t make me think of anyone else though.

Her sketches/paintings on paper were interesting – they were successful ass archive/collection/mass of mess. I would not have found them as interesting if they were displayed as singular, separate pieces. Is sketchbook art a thing now?

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