Artist and critic, Alexander Adams reviews ‘Work in Progess: Alex Hoda’

Work in Progress: Alex Hoda
Cass Sculpture Foundation (ed.)
Contributors by Flavia Frigeri, Melissa Hamnett, Clare Hindle, Gerald Matt, Claire Shea, John Richardson
Design by Simone Koller and Corina Neuenschwander
Hardback ISBN 978 31. 7757 3974 0 (R.R.P. £35.00)
Publication date: 3 April 2015
Publisher: Hatje Cantz/Cass Sculpture Foundation, 112 pp., 176 illus.

Alex Hoda (b. 1980) is a young sculptor from London who has become noted for the variety of media he has used for his organic sculptures. He has worked in stone, ceramic, cast metal and more pliant material such as synthetic compounds not usually associated with fine-art sculpture. Hoda trained at Wimbledon, Goldsmiths and the Royal Academy Schools. It remains open as to whether he can be counted as a member of the movement that takes entropy as both a subject and mechanism of production. The group includes Angela de la Cruz, Anya Gallaccio and others. It is perhaps useful to consider Hoda in that light, but realise that he is of a different temperament and with distinct concerns.

alex hoda at work
1. Alex Hoda working in his studio (photo: Meliza Myburgh © Cass Sculpture Foundation, Alex Hoda)

His sculptures are organic and are full of allusions to natural forms – animals, vegetation, internal organs. The sculptures often have a strong visceral element. The raspberry-syrup glazes over earthen ceramics recall nothing so much as blood on the innards of an animal or flayed muscle (fig.2). The perforated forms are closer to weathered biomorphic forms such as bones and wood, but not in any Hepworth-Moore way. They have a near flame-like aspect (fig.3). The reflections from the glazes keep the forms wavering and subject to movement, imbuing them with a pleasing visual slipperiness. Other sculptures incorporate manufactured elements and seem like mutant toys or failed models for animations. The bas reliefs are parodic pastoral idylls in the Graeco-Roman manner, with mutilated trash and premade kitsch. Horror and humour are never far absent from these latter pieces.

alex hoda puncture
2. Alex Hoda, Puncture, glazed ceramic (photo: Barney Hindle © Cass Sculpture Foundation, Alex Hoda)

Hoda’s sculptures are in the collections of Charles Saatchi, Cass Sculpture Foundation and Australian public museums, among others. This publication, arranged to coincide with Hoda’s solo exhibition at the Cass Foundation in Sussex, is in the form of a sketchbook-cum-scrapbook, with notes and snapshots. There are many illustrations of sculptures, but the captioning is a touch wayward. The text consists of multiple interviews and some short essays, with biographical data. Overall, it does not present the images in any chronological or thematic manner. Considering Hoda’s eclectic approach and the limited scope of what can be done in 112 pages, the format is a suitable choice.

alex hoda wisp
3. Alex Hoda, Wisp, glazed ceramic (photo: Barney Hindle © Cass Sculpture Foundation, Alex Hoda)

Unfortunately, with the exception of an enlightening interview with the artist conducted by John Richardson, the texts are of little value. They share a common failing. Too much is made of the transformation of ephemeral and disregarded original sources into bronze, ceramic and marble, the materials of high art. This modus operandi has been a staple part of art practice for decades and art writers really ought not to be getting so excited about it in 2015. Such views also pander to a recent common fallacy that art is only engaging when one discusses sources and external aspects exclusive to the art work under discussion. In other words, it is the story of piece of art that matters and not the art itself. Nonsense. Art is interesting and affecting because it is art and it affects us aesthetically.

What is compelling is not where Hoda’s art has come from but where it is now. What are exciting about Hoda’s art are the plastic form, colour and texture in combination. If interpreters follow the diverting but ultimately self-indulgent and arid course of discussing Hoda’s art primarily in relation to sources and putative influences then they short change art, artist and viewer. Hoda’s art is not some visually null object made only to prompt discussions about production. If it were then the relative success (or failure) of the final art works would be beside the point. It is far from beside the point. Where is the critic who is willing to take on Hoda’s art as art? Hoda’s art is fascinating but the least fascinating part is the sources. When critics, curators and publishers have the courage to discuss Hoda’s sculptures in concrete terms relating to their physical qualities then we will all benefit.

Main image: Alex Hoda, Whirlwind, 2011, polystyrene, 1mm zinc, steel and copper with bronze finish 225 × 100 × 100cms. (photo: Barney Hindle© Cass Sculpture Foundation, Alex Hoda)