Kate Hunt at Davidson Contemporary

review by matthew kangas


Kate Hunt’s fifth solo show in Seattle since 1990 brought together several series of works that have preoccupied her over the past four years in her Kalispell, Mont., studio. A graduate of Kansas City Art Institute and Cranbrook Academy of Art, Hunt has also exhibited in Montana, Idaho, Arizona, Missouri and Virginia.
Stacked-and-bound newspapers are Hunt’s signature material. Singled out in the New York Times in 1995 for carving her “stacks of old newspapers into talismanic sculptures,” Hunt’s new work reduced the totem-pole size of her columns. Now arranged in shorter, multiple clusters of varying heights and colors, the new Pedestal Stacks (2006-7) join a variant on the taller, freestanding pieces, the new Posts (2007), in echoing John McCracken’s leaning sculptures. Compiled of the cut newspaper sections, and daubed with filmy white or red encaustic, the Posts and Pedestal Stacks have an irregular edge and slant to them that gives them an organic feel.

Newspapers are a wood by-product and, like much of Hunt’s earlier work, the new Pedestal Stacks and Posts reinforce recycling as a virtual moral imperative on the West Coast, right down to the choice of studio materials. Entire traveling exhibitions, like “Trashformations,” have centered on the theme of recycled consumer materials as fodder for art. A single piece from a much earlier series, Encaustic Flag (2007), gives the American flag a timely, battered look.
Post No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 (all 2007) are, respectively, red, black and white on their front surfaces, with the unpainted, stacked newspaper edges showing through on the sides. The opposite, black sides appear scorched. In Hunt’s able hands, some torque slightly to the side with a twist away from the other tall sections.

Five Flathead Grids (all 2007) are wall-mounted. Each consists of nine, 15 or 18 separate sections in a grid. The individual newspaper-stack modules are held together by colored twine and reinforced by small saw blades, some of which stick out toward the viewer in a threatening manner. Hunt’s recourse to the comfort of the grid is understandable, if predictable, but precludes any more complex sculptural compositions, something that would be nice to see in the future.