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Ruth Hardinger: Transcending Fields
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Ruth Hardinger: Transcending Fields

June 3 - August 28, 2021

 

 

 

Mana Contemporary is the first institution in the United States to present a sweeping survey of works by Ruth Hardinger (b. 1950), whose New York-based practice spans some 50 years. Transcending Fields, comprising over 100 abstract sculptures, paintings, and works on paper, brings together the artist's most definitive creations, many alluding to ancient sites, esoteric spiritual practices, and the universal human practice of making art for the sake for remembrance. Curated by guest curator Xiaokun Sunny Qiu, founder of ArtsRouge International in Shanghai, the exhibition will be on view June 3 through August 7, 2021.

 

Throughout her decades-long career, Hardinger has challenged the conventions of sculpture, yet honored all artists, regardless of culture or period, who share her drive to understand the world through its substances and forms, and who leave behind enduring signs of that vital engagement. Her choice of materials is essential to the dialectical themes in her work: permanence versus ephemerality, essence versus mutability, the known versus the unknowable.As the show's guide sheet observes, “Her deft handling of 'poor materials'—concrete, string, cardboard, graphite, rope, even dried foodstuff—suggests a kind of transubstantiation, an impulse to transcend the mundane, through artistry and evoke the eternal and sublime.” These impulses, and this remarkable body of work, are rendered particularly poignant by the artist's current battle with clinically progressive memory loss.

 

Trained in classical studies at Hunter College, Hardinger developed a cosmology and a visual language encompassing ancient mythologies, sacred sites of antiquity, and mysterious structures such as the Mên-an-Tol in Cornwall. At the same time, she cultivated a vivid awareness of Western modernism—especially additive sculpture and assemblage, process art, and scatter art. She has traveled often to Latin America, most notably Oaxaca, Mexico, where she has established long-term relationships with local artisans. The cultures she grew familiar with through her studies and travels frequently left representations of themselves through stone, seeking to transcend time and eventually move from the material to spiritual planes of existence. Accordingly, the multi-room exhibition is laid out as a spiraling journey from one contemplative way station to the next.

 

Much of Hardinger's work combines concrete—treated as a kind of modern quasi-stone—with “throwaway” materials such as packing cardboard, plastic cups, and milk cartons. Her Envoys, Conundrums, Agents, and other sculptures bear the imprint of such disposable objects or sometimes physically incorporate their fragile materials into the work itself. There is also a tension between the raw concrete, a common building material, and its ultimate forms, which recall somber totemic objects found throughout the world. In her choice of materials and production methods, Hardinger (a dedicated environmental activist) evokes not only a shared desire for permanence, but also the ongoing, systematic damage done by humans to their natural world. 

 

Ruth Hardinger: Transcending Fields is organized by Xiaokun Sunny Qiu, C. Michael C. Norton, and Mana Contemporary in partnership with the Café Royal Cultural Foundation, the Douglas Elliman real-estate company, and the Hardinger Family Trust.

 

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