Maren Hassinger’s powerful installations, sculptures, videos, and performances explore nature as a complex, psychological space for political and personal transformation.
For more than five decades, the artist has used disparate materials, such as branches, plastic bags, and wire, to probe issues concerning race, identity, equity, and the environment.
The artist’s preferred materials have long been rope and steel cable because she finds them “open to innovation” and representative of materials that “nature has become.” The artist uses these materials in a fiber-like manner which allows her to create sculptures that “resemble living, breathing things.” Often mirroring the form of branches—whether bound together in outdoor spaces or single limbs populating institutional or public interiors—Hassinger’s sculptures confront the contradictions in her materials while seeking to maintain a balance between the natural and the human-made. Never isolated objects, the artist’s works always engage the space of the gallery and the relationship with the viewer, emphasizing that, for Hassinger, all “sculptures [are] about movement.”
For her first solo exhibition in the Midwest, Hassinger created a site-specific environment for the Art Institute’s Bluhm Family Terrace that encompasses two distinct installations: Paradise Regained (2020), a floor-based sculpture occupies the central outdoor gallery and presents numerous strands of slightly curved industrial rope leaning toward Lake Michigan, and Showers (2023), a newly commissioned set of suspended galvanized steel objects that hang from the canopy of the museum’s overhanging roof.
The ground- and ceiling-based works alternate in form and shift in direction throughout the day creating a durational experience that both harmonizes and disrupts the surrounding cityscape. As a free gallery space open to all, the Bluhm Family Terrace provides a fitting environment to highlight what Hassinger underscores as “our tenuous relationship to nature” and to connect viewers to what might be fragile or responsive in the interdependent nature of our ecosystem.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website