Madeline Wheeler on Meg Hitchcock’s New Works on Paper at RandallScottProjects
While the act of cutting holy texts is blasphemous and, in some countries, a crime punishable by imprisonment, Meg Hitchock’s repurposing of revered manuscripts intentionally confronts this taboo with the aim to explore rather than offend. Her works do reflect violence, but one of political and religious implications rather than vandalism.
In New Works on Paper at RandallScottProjects (January 10th-Febuary 7th), the artist presents fourteen text drawings constructed out of letters extracted from the Bible, the Koran, and Petronius’ “The Satyricon”. In each drawing, Hitchcock reassembles the letters to create new passages from disparate religious texts. These contain bold political statements or strings of letters that are completely indecipherable. All are devoid of punctuation. These strands of words are mounted on white paper backgrounds arranged in geometric shapes that vary from simple squares to intricate mandalas. Although Hitchcock’s works are primarily two-dimensional, at times she stacks letters on top of one another to add a sense of depth. The exhibit elicits the viewer’s participation; to read the text you must get within inches of the work in a manner that is both intimate and in violation of traditional gallery norms.
Throughout New Works on Paper, there is a tension between the violent act of slicing a sacred text and the peaceful manner in which the words are presented. They are colorless and organized into fluid shapes and patterns. In Gitmo: The Prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Hitchcock uses letters cut from the Koran and the Bible to create an elaborate set of concentric circles that displays careful text patterning and almost reads as decorative. The repeated patterns and absence of color are soothing, yet it is clear that the work contains a deeper political statement. The center mandala lists the prisoners’ names and an outer ring contains their Internment Security Numbers. At first, I questioned if the decorative arrangement of such a heavy political content undermined the work’s true message. Was she truly passionate about these prisoners, or merely using a highly controversial subject matter to be provocative?
After scrutinizing Gitmo, I found Hitchcock’s delicate presentation made the controversial political matter more approachable. It is notable that the artist took care to emphasize the prisoners as individuals with names rather than grouping them as prisoners at Guantanamo Bay as the work’s title suggests.
In New Works on Paper, Hitchcock explores the boundaries of religion and politics, demonstrating their untapped fluidity through the use of English alphabet and language. Her
work will be on display at Art on Paper in New York City from March 5th– 8th.
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Madeline Wheeler is a Baltimore-based writer from San Francisco enamored with ALLOVERSTREET and art documentaries. When she is not secluded to her apartment writing, she can be found dancing at The Crown or finding the latest pho place.