Borrowed tails, 2009

The De Rerum Natura of Lucretius is the first great work of poetry in which knowledge of the world tends to dissolve the solidity of the world, leading to a perception of all that is infinitely minute, light, and mobile … The poetry of the invisible, of infinite unexpected possibilities—even the poetry of nothingness—issues from a poet who had no doubts whatever about the physical reality of the world.

— Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium

SAM Next, the Seattle Art Museum’s contemporary art exhibition program, continues with Borrowed tails, an installation by German-born, Seattle-based artist Heide Hinrichs (born 1976), whose drawings and sculptures unfold at various tempos and elevations throughout the gallery and express the artist’s interest in abstraction, language and the act of translation. Given the historical precedent in using found objects, Hinrichs’ embrace of nontraditional materials is second nature. Minimal and restrained, her work externalizes qualities that also mirror that of several contemporary artists of her generation whose works give expression to the incidental and ephemeral.

Extending the use of materials, Hinrichs reinvests everyday objects with newfound potential and stages her works in a series of compositions that emerge as landscapes in the gallery. This collection of objects reads as a topographical map with a variety of features rising and falling in the composed environment. This new geography is populated by images drawn with modest gestures, and objects that result from stretching, cutting, and reassembling material into novel forms. The materials she selects are familiar and specific—a table, a cardboard box, a soccer ball, a bicycle tire, a piece of fabric or string. Iin her hands, they are distant, leaving only minor traces of the image’s past or the object’s prior function. As the artist herself reveals, she “transfers these materials towards a new identity” and “misuses them.” This misappropriation results in objects such as a tennis ball, once light and mobile, now grounded and estranged so as to render it other and unfamiliar.

Hinrichs borrows histories whose origins reside in another location, but which she adopts, renames, repurposes and returns. Our encounter with her abstract visual language stimulates our imagination to see beyond the material presence of an object towards an imagined narrative. In this installation, she stages objects to be read as text, where forms function as structures, much like letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs. In an attempt to open up language, Hinrichs titles the installation Borrowed tails, a phrase with double meanings—when spoken, “tails,” relating to animal imagery pictured in a drawing in this exhibit, can be misunderstood as “tales,” often stories with degrees of exaggeration. This error in aural translation alludes to the link between the individual and the collective. Here, forms are staged in a series of relationships to similar, and often identical, repeated forms, revealing how one object is always part of a larger body. The artist crafts this play on words where miscommunication and misinterpretation occur, but ultimately new meanings and unexpected associations are generated.

— Marisa C. Sánchez, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art