Los Angeles

Tony Hope: TH+ at ASHES/ASHES

Obsessively attuned to the use of space, Tony Hope stages deceptively spare sculptural environments within the gallery of ASHES/ASHES in his first Los Angeles solo exhibition, TH+. The two installations, which are suggestive of one another in their polarity, speak to the larger context of the show as it pertains to the value of manufactured identity. Hope displays a deep understanding of the transience found within subcultural materials that do not retain any value outside of what is given to them by an audience. This element is what makes TH+ so intriguing, along with a considerable derailment of reality being a deliverable in both installations.

Tony Hope. Untitled (Hugh), 2015; installation view. Courtesy of the artist and ASHES/ASHES.

Tony Hope. Untitled (Hugh), 2015; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and ASHES/ASHES.

Installed within the gallery’s bathroom, Untitled (Dawn) (2015) exists as a completely formalized staging of a rustic bathroom filled with the aesthetic of family values: duck replicas, wicker wreaths, and the words “family” and “friends” hung around a collaged photo wall. The installation falls in steep contrast to the spatially barren exhibition within the gallery’s main space. Whereas Untitled (Dawn) infers a claustrophobic reminder of unrealistic, unbridled acceptance based on family collectivity, Untitled (Living Room) reveals the opposition: a stark wasteland of solo identities appropriated and later discarded. The two create a dichotomy, allowing for an assessment of one against the other, while finally arriving at the same far ends of fanaticism.

In the main gallery, the viewer is introduced to a series of sculptural works relating to Hope’s past cultural allegiances. Only open during evening hours, the installation is experienced in the dark, with the sole sources of illumination emanating from two works: Untitled (Living Room) (2015), an ambient green glow that peers through the gallery’s vertical blinds from outside the gallery, and Untitled (Journeys) (2015), a single monitor, playing music videos on loop, that faces a wall and produces an inconsistent haze. These two works provide an immediate environmental context for a viewer to access time as a static placeholder in a seemingly abandoned space.

Tony Hope. Untitled (Living Room), 2015; installation view. Courtesy of the artist and ASHES/ASHES.

Tony Hope. Untitled (Living Room), 2015; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and ASHES/ASHES.

The core elements of Hope’s sculptures are residual constructs of highly marketed media material from mid ’90s horror-core and industrial bands like Insane Clown Posse and KMFDM. Installed sparsely on the wall, Untitled (T-Shirts) (2015) is made from a selection of largely destroyed T-shirts that Hope once wore while attending shows. The shirts are individually sealed with Mod Podge and are transformed into artifacts symbolic of earned identity. Once a well-worn stand-in for self expression, the shirts are now inactive sculptural relics that exist alone within memory and time.

Similarly, Hope’s video installation Untitled (Journeys) plays a loop of promotional commercials and music videos from the mid ’90s that were originally selected to play in the suburban alt-cult store Journeys. By facing the monitor toward the wall, Hope creates an empty, dead feeling where angst and energy once existed.

Many of the tactical details within the installation admit Hope’s intimacy as part of the audience he is referencing. Untitled (Patriots) (2015) exists as two red and blue bands crossing the perimeter of the gallery, alluding to Hope’s high-school hallways. Likewise, the T-shirts in Untitled (T-Shirts) are from Hope’s personal collection, and the video loop of Untitled (Journeys) references Hope’s time working at the suburban mall chain. In this way the entire exhibition can be viewed as completely personal to Hope’s own trajectory, as the references are direct from his life, yet the cultural monikers are broad enough to account for a collective understanding.

Tony Hope. Untitled (T Shirts), 2015; installation view. Courtesy of the artist and ASHES/ASHES.

Tony Hope. Untitled (T-Shirts), 2015; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and ASHES/ASHES.

Hope’s most direct comment on being part of an audience in your own life is perhaps best seen with Untitled (Hugh) (2015), a sculpture of a severed head on a metal stake that rests on the base of a low platform. A reference from a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode titled I, Borg, this work is a replica of a reprogrammed Borg who takes on a new identity as an individual named Hugh, attempting to leave behind the collective hive mind of the Borg. The philosophical inquiry is centered on the challenge of individual choice versus group collectivity as it pertains to identity. Fear is a motivator in attempting the new identity as Hugh, as well as in reverting back to a nameless Borg in the end.

As a whole, TH+ visually explores ways of coping, while both installations address the tension between the individual and the collective. By highlighting the contrast within the two installations, Hope engages the inevitable failure of such coping mechanisms when used as a source of identity.

Tony Hope: TH+ is on view at ASHES/ASHES in Los Angeles through December 30, 2015.