Friday, March 14, 2008

EJ Hauser

so below, 2007, oil on wood panel, 20 x 16 inches

EJ Hauser's current show at Never Work underscores the relationship between her different manners of working. Moving from thick, painterly pseudo-landscapes to highly detailed and laborious renderings of letter after letter, her meandering studio practice produces a body of work that spins off of a reverence for language.

If there is one conceptual thread throughout the past few years, it is that she has used text as starting point. I asked her to talk a little about words and their emergence, presence, and evolution in her work...

I have always written words down on the surface of my paintings as a way to begin, as a starting point, as a way to secretly inform what I hoped the painting could be about. Whether or not these words ended up having any influence on the finished paintings is unclear, but I used words as a system for starting work. Words were a layer underneath, and mostly hidden. Occasionally words or numbers would end up out in the world as actual work (like the small pink encaustic / glue piece). Then in 2000-2004 there were some paintings I did where I focused on one word and I would work and work the painting until I felt like the words had earned their right to be out there in the world but all this paint working had the effect of sucking the life out of what I was working on. I kind of gave up on words on the outside of paintings for awhile.

untitled, 1999/2000, paper, glue, and encaustic wax, 10” x 10” x 2”

a word moves about in the shadows and swells the draperies, 2007, oil and enamel on wood panel, 36” x 56”

Hauser’s work is interesting in a discussion of the old and the new in that the older work is literally buried beneath the new, finished works of 2007/8. This is true for both for the Untitled wax work from 1999/2000 and the my personal favorite from the show, "a word moves about in the shadows and swells the draperies” from 2007. Coming a little ahead of it's time, the former began as a page from her notebook and was eventually embedded in glue and covered over in wax. The latter took five years to finish and contains her experiments with written words, layering, texture, and design. In the end, its was all painted over in a contrast of a shining/reflected black landscaped silhouette over a matte black ground.

The skateboard below was actually the first work where she really let text out into the world. Initially, the work came together as a gift and was not particularly meant to lead any direction. Instead, it opened up a new, more directly personal avenue for her.

untitled, 2006, oil and enamel on skateboard

She went on to discuss more about the origin of her attraction to text:
Obviously I like to print. I like to craft letters with care. My father and grandfather, both engineers, only really printed. I think because their handwriting was illegible but also I think it is what engineers do. They are scientific and they need to be clear, so they print. In this way, for me, printing is a family tradition.

My word paintings are like recordings, like snapshots, exposed notebooks, or dedications to other words I care about (my own or others). ‘Capturing’ all these words also plays into my fantasy as being a kind of art-scientist.. As art-scientist, I sometimes devise a more unified word structure / program inside one painting, other times I create multiple mini-programs that work independently inside one piece. The impetuous for these paintings is about talking as well as reading and recording. I find it important to try out word combinations / juxtapositions by saying them aloud. Some word strings I want to write down because they sound good.

forces trying to get in touch with one another, 2006,
oil on newspaper, 6" x 8
Be sure to see her show at Never Work before it closes on March 30.


  1. I really like the Neverwork show. EJ, you've talked about the origins of the text, but how do some of the paintings end up entirely abstract?

  2. Hi there dubz…It seems I’m always trying to find a way to bring my notebooks into the world…my notebooks serving as a kind of personal repository for holding images and words that I think of as energy and force…while working in the notebooks, I also make drawings, clip images from the newspaper, and write down strings of words…these drawings and lists become the origin for my paintings…and, I basically develop the heavy paint paintings similarly to how I develop the word paintings…it is a kind of semi-free associative process, where an idea (word or image) goes up on the panel, and I react to it…building layers, adding and subtracting, looking for something resonant.

    And, the paint and color of my thick paint paintings has become more resonant to me since embarking on the purely word paintings…the landscapes, geological arenas, and oceans where semi-fierce animals, heads, and weird creatures roam has become more unencumbered since making these word paintings …it’s as if the structure and text dreaming within the word paintings has created a kind of extreme position to push against…one in which the paint has become freed up as a kind of sculptural tool for my imagining.

  3. great last sentence - i can totally visualize your process now. thanks for elaborating!