“Can I make sculptures that are dances?” Gordon Hall asked in a 2013 text. The sculptures in “Uselessness”—nine simplified forms rigorously fashioned from cast concrete, poplar, and carved brick—answer affirmatively. In an exhibition earlier this year at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, for which these works were commissioned, each sculpture correlated with a performance. Some called for physical contact between the performer and the object—for example, the artist perched in the carved space of Sitting (Brick Object) (III) (all works 2019). Others were more associative, as in the slow melt of an ice block shaped like a soda can in oblique response to Shim (White), a low, slanted form embellished with eight raised lines and a round hole. Such interactions display Hall’s politics of abstraction, contending that objects can model more generous ways for humans to encounter and care for one another. While, for the artist, these object lessons might most urgently pertain to the politics of gender, their sculptures insist on openness; viewers looking for a clear position on current events will be frustrated. Part of the artist’s program is to produce a more generous political future by welcoming forms that evade existing categories.
In “Uselessness,” Hall’s first solo commercial gallery exhibition in Chicago, the artist does not perform. It is tempting to frame Hall’s absence as an abdication, a cynical abandonment of these sculptures to their commercial fates. Yet this decision also reflects the ripening of their philosophy of objecthood, which is traceable in OVER-BELIEFS (2019), a collection of the artist’s writings published by PICA and available at Document. Refusing to perform, Hall highlights the power of objects with seemingly ambiguous functions to evoke movement and elicit specific political effects, even when separated from their maker or the performing body. Hall has entrusted viewers with their objects, and trusts the objects to solicit care from us.