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Charlie Hewitt Sculpture

Kempner Fine Art West 23rd Street New York, NY 10011


This catalogue was published by Jim Kempner Fine Art in New York City.

www.jimkempnerfineart.com 212. 206. 6872 Photography by David Wolfe. Designed by Alina Gallo. Prints reproduced in this catalogue are held in copyright by the artist © 2010. Essay copyright by Edgar Allen Beem © 2010.

Cover: Blue Devil, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 100” x 60” x 36” (detail)


Charlie Hewitt

Sculpture


Playful and Serious Edgar Allen Beem

Charlie Hewitt is both a protean and a prolific artist. He is primarily a painter, but he is a painter who manages to successfully translate the language of his paintings into prints, ceramics and sculpture, creating a large family of object that are all visually and viscerally related. The basis of all of Hewitt’s art is drawing. Indeed, walking into his studio in a former industrial bakery building in Portland, Maine, as he prepared for his sculpture exhibition at Jim Kempner Fine Art in New York was like stepping into a three dimensional drawing. Colorful cubes, cones, chains, commas and curls of steel connected by black line-like rods filled two white rooms, some standing big and bold floor to ceiling, many more resting small and assertive on wooden shelves. If you weren’t familiar with Charlie Hewitt’s visual vocabulary, you might think he had just been doodling in steel. But Hewitt’s symbolic images are loaded and intentional, physical embodiments of his working-class Franco-American heritage. Charlie Hewitt grew up in the Maine mill towns of Auburn and Brunswick. On his mother’s side he comes from a family of steeplejacks. The bent nails, screws, hammers, saw blades, jagged metal rebar and braided rope that recur throughout his work in every medium speak to lives of manual labor. Hewitt is a very physical artist. He is a very spiritual one as well, though not in a conventionally religious way. The iconography of his Roman Catholic upbringing finds its way into his art as a kind of secularize Stations of the Cross. The cubes conjure the tumbling dice of Roman soldiers casting lots for the crucified Christ’s garments, yet they can also be read as symbols of chance or just abstract cubes. Then there is a serrated form that might be a rooster’s comb, an allusion to the rooster who cried three times after Peter denied Jesus, the rooster being an age old symbol of Christ’s passion. Though Hewitt’s sculptures are informed by drawings, he actually draws directly on steel with soapstone. The lines are then cut with a blowtorch and the artist uses both the positive and negative elements in his work, the excised image and the hollow ground from which it came.


The cutting based on Hewitt’s lines and the welding based on his maquettes was executed by the Ball & Chain Forge in Portland. “Because of the quality of craftsmanship in Maine I am able to work with something that is rigid and make it seem fluid,” says Hewitt. Early on, Hewitt left his metal sculpture raw and unpainted, polishing and oxidation determining the finish. Two years ago, he rendered them bright and shiny with auto body paint. More recently, he has been hand-painting them with some transitional pieces combining the high gloss of automotive paint with the more painterly touch of copper-based paints. “I think like a painter, but then I use the space,” says Hewitt. “The smaller ones are interesting to me because I can get my hands on them.” The results of all this drawing, cutting, welding, handling, and painting are abstract sculptures that are like 3-D characters that have stepped out of Hewitt’s paintings and prints. Antic and animated, they also possess a certain anxiousness. As curator Pat Nick observed in an interview she did with Hewitt on the occasion of his 2006 retrospective at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, “Much of your imagery at first appears whimsical, but on second look there’s always a dark side.” One hundred years ago, in his 1910 book How We Think, the philosopher John Dewey wrote, “To be playful and serious at the same time is possible, and it defines the ideal mental condition.” All of Charlie Hewitt’s art is at once playful and serious, a rare quality it shares with only a handful of other artists. Alexander Calder, Joan Miro, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, and Hewitt’s mentor Philip Guston come first to mind. On the playful side, Charlie Hewitt’s sculpture is endlessly entertaining with its lively colors and surprising combinations of forms. On the serious side, these curious objects aspire to that ideal mental state in which the personal takes on universal meaning, the aesthetic ah-ha that occurs when an artist makes sense of the phenomenal world by adding something new and unexpected to it.


French Beauty, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 46” x 15” x 6”

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Eden, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 41” x 28” x 10”

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OPPOSITE PAGE Highland Gypsy 1, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 46” x 39” x 8”

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Blue Rooster, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 25” x 13” x 7”


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THIS PAGE: Maritime Flags, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 33” x 23” x 5” (top) Old Town 4, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 15” x 8” x 4” (right) OPPOSITE PAGE: Aztec, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 103” x 58” x 18”

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THIS PAGE: Rooster, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 21” x 12” x 5” (top) Ragman 2, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 19” x 14” x 6” (right) OPPOSITE PAGE: Blue Devil, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 100” x 60” x 36”

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Station 5, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 16” x 13” x 5” Meridian, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 26” x 16” x 4” Prince Steve, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 25” x 22” x 5” Phonecian, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 20” x 14” x 6” Highland, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 15” x 12” x 5” Little Adam, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 15” x 13” x 7” Highland Dancer, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 31” x 17” x 5” Old Town 1, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 19” x 14” x 5”

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Yankee Max, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 60” x 50” x 11”

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OPPOSITE PAGE Ragman, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 30” x 20” x 11” Lefty, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 21” x 15” x 8” THIS PAGE Aristocrat, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 33” x 24” x 5” Old Town 2, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 23” x 9” x 4”

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Ragman (study), 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 20” x 13” x 7” Small Rascal, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 20” x 19” x 6”

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True Cross, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 16” x 11” x 5” Station 6, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 18” x 14” x 4”

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THIS PAGE: Red Rooster, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 62” x 12” x 8” (left) Urban Rattle, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 74” x 24” x 7” (right) OPPOSITE PAGE: Rascal, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 92” x 74” x 31”

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THIS PAGE: Scribe, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 32” x 16” x 5”

OPPOSITE PAGE: Hitch, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 24” x 20” x 7” Aztec (study), 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 27” x 16” x 9”

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THIS PAGE: Beckett, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 32” x 8” x 4” (left) Old Town 3, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 17” x 14” x 4” (right)

OPPOSITE PAGE: Highland Gypsy, 2010 Steel, copper patina and pigment 48” x 38” x 14”

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Photo by Sean Sullivan.


Ball and Chain Forge. Bob Menard and Dan Memory.


Biography Selected Solo Exhibitions 2010 2010 2008 2007 2006 2004 2001 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992

Jim Kempner Fine Art, New York City Icon Gallery, Bruswick, Maine Jim Kempner Fine Art, New York City Whitney Art Works, Portland Maine Farnsworth Museum, Rockland Maine Olin Arts Center, Bates College, Lewiston Maine Jim Kempner Fine Art, New York City Jim Kempner Fine Art, New York City Jim Kempner Fine Art, New York City Arden Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts June Fitzpatrick Gallery, Portland, Maine Nancy Margolis Gallery, New York City Ralph Greene Gallery, Albuquerque, New Mexico Jim Kempner Fine Art, New York City Arden Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts Kouros Gallery, New York City Paula Paulette Fine Arts, Portland, Maine Ralph Greene Gallery, Albuquerque, New Mexico Olin Arts Center, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine Dranoff Fine Arts, New York City Dean Valentgas Gallery, Portland, Maine

Collections The Whitney Museum of Art, New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, Relief Portfolio MIT, List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts The Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Ithaca, New York. Elindean Portfolio The New York Public Library, New York City The Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine The Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, South Carolina Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, Maine Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine The Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts Phillips Academy, Addison Gallery, Andover, Massachusetts, Eldindean Portfolio The Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine Hood Museum, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire Chase Manhattan Bank, New York City Chemical Bank, New York City Maryland Bank and Trust, Lexington Park, Maryland Prudential Insurance, New York City State University of New York, Binghamton, New York Dillard Weatherspoon Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina

Grants and Awards 1998 1997 1974

New York State Foundation for the Arts, Painting New York Foundation for the Arts, Drawings, Prints New York State Council on the Arts, CAPS Grant


www.charliehewitt.com www.jimkempnerfineart.com www.spitbitepress.com


Charlie Hewitt: Sculpture