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Moskowitz Bayse

Michael Henry Hayden at Moskowitz Bayse

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A few years ago, Michael Henry Hayden and his partner Anthony led me and a small group of friends on a magical night hike in Angeles National Forest — the two frequent trails in the area. Now, Hayden is using the forest as fodder for a new series of sculptures, literally. The works in his new show “Waiting for the Canyon’s Echo” are made from silicone casts of natural materials — rocks, plants, trees — both domestic and wild. For “Plein Air” — a flawless painting fading from creamy orange to white that is encased by two large rock faces — Hayden went into Angeles Forest and made a cast of a granite cliff face (!!), then took the mold back to his studio to cast a replica.

Hayden tells me that small bits of granite from the cliff face got stuck in the silicone mold and made their way into the final piece; another layer of trompe-l’oeil. Across the show, these natural casts are hemmed in by minimal geometric shapes, flat colors, and gradients that take on a slickness akin to the Light and Space movement; these sharp lines are at odds with the natural wildness contained in each work. In “Leaflet (Anthurium),” the ribs of a luscious leaf cut diagonally across the square artwork. One half of the kelly green leaf flutters up past the artwork edge while the other half is bluntly truncated to form the square artwork’s edge. The exhibition at once reveres nature’s splendor and highlights the way that we try to control, mimic, and mold nature within our contemporary world. Hayden explains that “experiencing nature is never exactly a pure experience. It always involves folding our knowledge, expectations, or our personal imagination onto the experience, and this collision is one of the phenomena that I’m exploring in this work.”

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Photo: Michael Henry Hayden, “Waiting for Canyon’s Echo,” installation view. Image courtesy of the artist and Moskowitz Bayse.