From the Vault: Los Angeles artist Tim Hawkinson’s diverse body of work explores machines, the body, and nature through drawings, photography, inflated latex casts, and mechanical constructions. The Fin Within is a cast of the space between the full length of the artist’s legs, from the top of his thighs to the soles of his feet. Hawkinson pressed his knees together, creating visible negative spaces that he inscribed with a crisscross pattern like the scales of a sea creature. When seen from behind, the sculpture resembles a serpentlike tail; from the front it emphasizes a fanlike webbing of the feet. From the sides, meanwhile, the impression made by the artist’s leg muscles is clearly visible. All of these various references allow Hawkinson to muse playfully on man’s relationship with other species, mythological creatures, or inventions, such as flippers worn by scuba divers. The word “fin” in the work’s title prods the viewer to further engage ideas of motion, steering, and stabilizing-all within a piece that is essentially static. As in many of Hawkinson’s other works, the subject is his own body, which he seeks to transform, fictionalize, and transcend. Hawkinson’s explorations resonate with fellow California artist Bruce Nauman’s own examinations of his body a generation or two before Hawkinson.
This self-portrait, life-size but fragmentary, evokes ancient and modern references that expand as the work is situated in different contexts. Hawkinson’s interdisciplinary approach to art and meaning connects with a broad range of works in the AMAM collection, including sculptures like Kiki Smith’s Untitled IV (Shield), a 1990 plaster cast of a friend’s pregnant belly. Equally intriguing are Fin’s resonances with works like Rubens’s The Finding of Erichthonius (1632-33), whose mythical subject is the snake-legged infant son of Vulcan and Gaea.
Tim Hawkinson (American, b. 1960)
The Fin Within, 1998
Aluminum and plaster
Ruth C. Roush Contemporary Art Fund and Art Object Sales Fund, 2008.6