For the last decade much of Russel Hulsey’s work has explored the concept that art begins with the poetic. Therefore his artwork often focuses towards personal introspection and spiritual contemplation.
A four part series, Verses I and II, is the artist’s most recent body of work and homage to some of the most renowned and infamous American poets. Whether it is Ralph Waldo Emerson or Allen Ginsberg, the portraits show the artist’s impression of each author. Hulsey does not make preparatory sketches for any of the pieces; instead he chooses to work with immediacy – allowing the portrait to be as spontaneous and perceptive as the words of each poet.
As we see in Hulsey’s earlier work, Seeking, 2002 or his recent vinyl installation in the 21c vestibule, Patent Pending, 2008, Husley’s fascination with the poetic and word play is also a device for social commentary. In Seeking, the viewer is invited to approach a normal TV set atop a low lying base, as if it were a Buddha sculpture atop an alter, and the screen has been manipulated to display a single line that when combined with the mirrored base reveals the word “T R U T H.”
Similar to the wordplay in Seeking and Patent Pending, Hulsey evokes other artists and poets in the works that complete the exhibition. The Laughing Heart (for Charles “Hank” Bukowski), 2009 is a heart shaped sculpture made only from blue oil paint and hung on a gold background. Hulsey channels Yves Klein’s theories of the blue void made famous in Klein’s work of the 60’s and the gold paint color often used by Klein to question value systems. As we read Bukowski’s poem describing the necessity of spontaneity yet void of the word “heart,” the sculpture becomes a visual pun and acts as a totem of artistic impulse.
The final work, an homage to the conceptual artist Bruce Nauman, reads as a clue hidden in plain sight. An intentional misspelling of a well known 1967 neon work by Nauman that reads “The true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths,” Hulsey is suggesting that the role of art lies in poetic, spontaneous, mystical experience and that it cannot be read at surface value.
Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Hulsey has exhibited regionally since the late 90s and has had numerous international exhibitions.
Limited edition prints of Verses I & II available at the 21c Gift Shop.