Bendel Hydes: Circumnavigating the Globe
Tenri Cultural Institute's Gallery, Chelsea, NY
Through October 28, 2010
Sailing, an art that requires masterful skill and trust in wind and water, is a deceptively effortless movement in which a vessel is pushed, pulled, thrust, and propelled forward and onward. As in life, this would be true if we allowed destiny to control our fate. But on this prosperous voyage, we encounter choice and free will, often at odds with human emotion, erratic at times, as we change direction into unchartered seas. Bendel Hydes's current exhibition, Circumnavigating the Globe, curated by D. Dominick Lombardi, explores the landscape and sentiment of what lies within and underneath the seas and soul. The show contains eight of Hydes's twelve 78"x78" abstract paintings which represent segments of Earth's surface in twelve 30 degree sections of longitude, from -180 degrees west to +180 degrees east.
Walking into Tenri's white, light space, a row of eight Roman columns connect the cathedral ceilings to the wood plank floor. Clouds of color greet me and I feel pulled in different directions; drawn to a piercing red painting, I make my way to "Paradox of Dreams" to begin my voyage. There is a drippy quality to the painting of black oil creeping underneath while spherical rings and rods rotate in its center. I immediately think of the Gulf oil spill and as I look through the artist catalog, I find that my internal compass was exactly on target. The way the rods and spheres intertwine reminds me of a caduceus and I begin to think of Mercury, messenger of the gods, and the message the painting was delivering. There was a healing quality to the work as well as a sense of industriousness, a combined effort of nature’s ability to cleanse itself as well as humanity’s responsibility to correct these man-made disasters.
Beyond the BP oil spill, "Paradox of Dreams" feels like an oracle to an even more recent environmental atrocity –- Hungary’s caustic deluge of red sludge filtrating into prime agricultural lands and the Danube River. Images of the ecological horror lurking in both air and water come to mind, but Hydes's painting is a subtle allusion to these disasters. The paintings do not assault the viewer to think these thoughts; they speak at a higher level of consciousness and the emotions emerge spontaneously. Lombardi describes Hydes's paintings as "land masses, cultures, current events and of course water, blending together as a frothy, and at times, furious mix of color and texture." One point feeds into the next like linked and then broken chains spilling out onto Hydes's canvases. Intentionally allowing brush bristles, paint chips, and other particles from the atmosphere to settle on his paintings’ surfaces, Hydes's microcosm of the sea accepts these disruptions as part of the overall harmony of the composition.
Wandering around the room from one coordination point to the next, I begin to discover these landforms of desert and mountain, natural disasters of landslides and hurricanes, flora and fauna of blossoms and turtles, and even sun and moon. Hydes's titles for his paintings hint at which part of the world they are examining, as well as noting the degree east or west from each consecutive segment. Titles such as "Desert Kabuki," "Tributaries of the Sacred," and "Entrenchment" evoke sentiments that are specific to the region depicted in these historical and cultural slices of landscape. "Sargasso," for example, exposes a foreboding fear and darkness. This expansive area in the Atlantic is a doldrum, or windless dead zone, which forces a vessel to sit stagnant, sailing along slowly until a sea squall forms.
Hydes, who is also a sailor, started his series at 90-60 degrees west, which is his personal location. A native of the Cayman Islands, which is at 81 degrees west, then settling in New York, which is at 74 degrees west, Hydes selected a segment that encapsulated both points. His paintings move easterly, mimicking the rotation of the earth.
Brilliant blues and turquoise, rusty sea foam, passionate reds and magenta, somber gray, and golden swirls create a symphony of movement, layers of light and dark, morning and night. Contrasted against the colors and emotions are crisscross patterns, imaginary longitudinal and latitudinal grid lines, and calculated numerical points. One begins to question the inner workings of their life map, where they come from, where they have been, and where will they go. - Michelina Docimo
"What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous..." - Thomas Merton (American Trappist Monk, 1915-1968)
Circumnavigating the Globe runs through October 28, 2010
Tenri Cultural Institute of New York
43A West 13th Street, New York, NY 10011
Ms. Docimo is a certified sustainable building adviser and writer. Her focus is on sustainable architecture, art, and design. Her writings have appeared in ARTES, D'Art International, and other venues.