Denim is everywhere in Anna Sew Hoy’s “Invisible Tattoo,” serving as a stand-in for the human body and a protective casing for vulnerable insides. Piled on the floor are various “Denim Worms” (2016), long tubular soft sculptures made of jeans in a variety of colors and washes that have been stuffed with T-shirts and sewn together. Other works are more rigid, though no less biomorphic. The curvaceous, denim-clad stoneware forms in Invisible Tattoo (2016) resemble a figure in a seated yoga pose from the back. From the front they look like a hooded head with a large oval mirror where the face should be. Invisible Tattoo comprises a pair of these objects, each arranged alone on a separate cinderblock base and positioned to face one another. The work reflects on the act of looking, but only the stone-washed or reflective surfaces are visible; the interior is opaque, protected.
Anna Sew Hoy’s sculptures extend the surrealist-inflected tradition that Lucy Lippard termed “eccentric abstraction.” There are echoes of Eva Hesse’s work and, particularly in glazed stoneware pieces like Woven Void (2016), Barbara Hepworth’s carvings. Sew Hoy’s project takes such historical examples as guides to embodied experience in contemporary life. Some of the “Denim Worms” are draped over sculptural wall hooks: naturalistic flexing forearms cast in clear plastic. Cords of headphones and other electronic devices run through these arms like veins. The bare limbs, titled Utopic Accumulation (Wall Hook), 2012-16, stand out in the exhibition not only because they are explicit figurative element amid otherwise abstract works, but also because, un-jeaned, they appear profoundly exposed.
—William S. Smith
Pictured: Anna Sew Hoy: Invisible Tattoo, 2016, stoneware, jeans, mirror and cinderblocks, 25 by 18 by 20 inches. Courtesy Koenig and Clinton, New York.