For many artists working today, there is a renewed sense of urgency – to respond, organize, and question the labyrinth of visual and material information that exists simultaneously. Reading between the lines, they take up the task of re-writing history, challenging the document, or reconfiguring the archive. Richly adding to this conversation is the work of Leslie Hewitt, who isolates and juxtaposes objects, images, and texts amidst the daily cacophony, asking for our sustained focus on an “intimate and imperative level”.
Hewitt’s work is significant for the ways in which it questions history, memory, time, and the language of images, but something gets lost when neatly matched to one of those topics alone. What is perhaps most compelling, opening into conundrum or epiphany, is the way in which this work allows for multiple readings and perspectives at once, as a gesture, if not a call for an ethos of seeing. Inspired by Third Cinema, Conceptual art, and modes of syncopation, Hewitt’s vantage point seems at once poetic and critical, and as deeply tied to the past as it is to a hope for the future.
Hewitt reshuffles historical and everyday ephemera in a new suspended time and context to consider the role of images and objects in our personal and collective consciousness. In the series Riffs on Real Time, 2008, three perspectives, or frames, are literally and conceptually compressed into one new photograph. Snapshots of domestic personal scenes – a family at a picnic or banal living room interiors – are layered over items that circulate in public and private contexts – books without titles, UN treaty maps, magazine pages, or letters – that often show the signs of time and handling. Both come together in the “real” space of a hardwood floor, creating new conversations about the role of photography in our interior and exterior worlds – “where do they meet, conflict, or come apart?” In Afterimages, 2009, objects seen in passing – a street grate, cameo, or pair of earrings – are rendered by hand from memory and fixed anew in gouache and pencil on a solid piece of wood. Untitled (Capsule), 2005-2006, presents seventy-six first and second editions of Alex Haley’s Roots on a cypress shelf. This work sits in conversation withUntitled (Resist, Resist, Resist…), a 2009 floor sculpture of blank books made up of concrete. What presence and weight do such texts hold in our lives?
Working across mediums, Hewitt engages formal play and subtle gestures, both within and outside of the picture plane, to confront and transform perspective. In her restaged documents, the artist calls upon the promise of photography to re-assert specific histories, but simultaneously subverts our expectations of the photograph – subtly disrupting the view, picturing multiple frames in one, or leaving the edges of the photographs visible. Photographs, dislocated from time and space, are always only questions. They reveal as much as they conceal and “rely on the knowledge we bring to them.” These seemingly quiet works are what Roland Barthes called “thinking images”. They make us reflect, and they suggest many meanings often in contrast or balance with their literal meanings. “Photography is subversive not when it frightens, repels, or even stigmatizes, but when it is pensive, when it thinks.”
Rather than posing literal narratives, Hewitt’s works invite a collective dialogue. What are the limits and promise of photography now – as a tool for social discourse, marker of memory, and arbitrator of meaning? What role do photographs play in our interior and exterior worlds? What personal, social, and political associations do we bring to what we see everyday? What is the gap between personal and public perception – between picturing yourself and being photographed? The questions posed by Hewitt’s work are at once critical and deeply personal. What one reads into it changes as you open to the possibilities, but to quote the artist, they allow us to “to confront every second as if it has always been in existence, though its materiality is fleeting.” Hewitt takes the familiar to new places. Images that are at once recognizable are imbued with new meaning. That which is overlooked is given new form, perspective, and weight. These seemingly straightforward works tell stories of poignant complexity. In presenting multiple views and new correspondences, Hewitt’s works open a space that is our own, to confront, enrich, complicate, and transform the ways in which we see photographs, history, the current moment, and ourselves.
 Leslie Hewitt, excerpt from statement
 Hewitt, excerpt from statement on Riffs on Real Time
 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, trans. Richard Howard, (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981), 28-29
 Barthes, Camera Lucida, 38
 Hewitt, excerpt from Interview
ABOUT LESLIE HEWITT
Leslie Hewitt (b.1977) is based in New York and studied at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (2000), the Yale School of Art (2004) and at New York University as a Clark Fellow for Africana/Cultural Studies (2001-02). She was included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial. Recent and forthcoming exhibitions also include The High Museum in Atlanta, GA; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; The Contemporary Art Museum in Houston, TX; Artists Space inNew York, NY; Sculpture Center inNew York, NY; Project Row Houses in Houston, TX; The Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, CT, LAXART in Los Angeles, CA, D’Amelio Terras in New York; Arndt & Partner in Zurich, Switzerland and Thomas Dane in London, England. Additionally Hewitt has received a 2008 Art Matters Grant and a 2009-2010 Radcliffe Fellowship Residency.
the everyday is curated by Kate Menconeri as part of the requirements for the master of arts degree in curatorial studies.
Student curated exhibitions at CCS Bard are made possible with support from the Rebecca and Martin Eisenberg Student Exhibition Fund; Mitzi and Warren Eisenberg; and the Patrons, Supporters, and Friends of the Center for Curatorial Studies. Special thanks to the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.