Trinity’s on-campus contemporary art gallery, The Douglas Hyde, is hosting Eric N. Mack’s first solo exhibition, Scampolo!, until May 29 2022. Mack is an American artist whose work has been shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Serpentine Gallery in London, Camden Arts Centre, and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) PS1. The Douglas Hyde describes his exhibition as “tether[ed] to the gallery’s architecture and present[ing] a series of movements through abstraction, colour and image.” Mack was able to use the gallery space however he wished, meaning that the art interacts with the architecture on a reactive level – not simply being placed in the gallery but having been made in the gallery.
“By communicating artistically in a form that is not easily categorizable – textile, painting, collage, photograph, and sculpture are all words that could semi-successfully be used to describe this piece – Scampolo! forces the viewer to put aside our preconceptions of how we should look at art, how we should interpret it.”
Mack’s paintings question the form itself – made of hanging sheets of fabric and printed images, they are not paintings in the classical sense of the form, but they invoke in the viewer the same sensations of awe and aesthetic enjoyment. Walking through the gallery, which Mack was given the freedom to use however he liked, feels like walking through a deconstructed painting– expanded, textured, colourful, layered, lines of fabric intersecting, a series of images also included – taken from magazines, photographs. As others walk through the space, their bodies are shrouded by the fabric, tinted blue, red, orange. The fabric is occasionally layered – in the gallery with a friend, taking photos of each other, I appeared blurrily under the colour blue whereas they appeared all purple-pink. A seemingly small detail, this sense of visual play is what makes Mack’s work interesting. It engages you in the space, forcing you to examine your own relationship to the art – even if only your distance from the fabric, the walls, the photographs– as well as how you and others move through the space, implicitly changing the composition of the exhibition. Scampolo! questions the boundaries of form and it is viscerally beautiful. By communicating artistically in a form that is not easily categorizable – textile, painting, collage, photograph, and sculpture are all words that could semi-successfully be used to describe this piece – Scampolo! forces the viewer to put aside our preconceptions of how we should look at art, how we should interpret it. Walking through the space, we become immersed in it. Travelling through colour, light, image, and texture, perhaps, we forge a relationship with the artwork without immediately categorising it into a form – instead, experiencing it on its own terms, as a changing and beautiful experience.
Mack takes inspiration from fashion and has worked with fashion brands before. Some of the movement, fluidity, and embodied quality of his work can be attributed to this connection. Fashion, after all, is about movement, bodies, colour, space, and beauty. An example of Mack’s work with designers is an installation he did with Missoni for Desert X – draping and hanging fabrics over a car garage overlooking the Salton Sea. The movement of the fabric is sculptural and reactive to the environment– billowing in the wind, glowing with light. In Scampolo!, one of the pictures pasted on a wall of the gallery, behind draped fabrics you can walk behind to view, somewhat cocooned from the rest of the gallery, is a picture of a woman in a white outfit. She is quoted as saying, “My clothes are from my very inner self.” One of the very few sentences included in the artwork, it is easy, as a viewer, to ignore it because of its sourcing from a magazine page. However, the magazine model quote, ostensibly trying to sell someone clothes at some point in time, reflects an interest in fashion and how we express our inner selves.
“Many of the fabrics in the show have been sourced from local Irish textile manufacturers, tethering the installation materially to Ireland as well as the gallery space.”
Mack is American, based in New York City, and was recently an art fellow in Rome before coming to Dublin to set up this exhibition. Scampolo! stitches all of these places together, each place influencing the piece. Hewitt, who is connected to Cooper Union in New York as well, has work exhibited in the next room. The title, Scampolo!, is Italian for remnant, reflecting both his time in Rome and the sometimes scrap-like quality of his work, reflecting something, yet not entirely communicating a whole. Many of the fabrics in the show have been sourced from local Irish textile manufacturers, tethering the installation materially to Ireland as well as the gallery space.