Comments/Context: David Hilliard's newest works have a uniquely East Coast American feel. Set in and around his family's Cape Cod house, his quiet narratives capture the essence of Yankee thriftiness and its deeply held belief in the simple, the functional, and the unassuming. The pictures are rooted in the charm of the unchanging and the patina of age, but also tell the story of unspoken familial distance and stubborn ritual.
The word panorama tends to get thrown around a lot when describing Hilliard's multi-panel works, but I'm not convinced that this characterization is entirely accurate. A panorama sweeps and pans, moving from edge to edge in one continuous motion. What Hilliard is doing is something more akin to standing in one place and letting your attention wander - your eye turns along a single axis, connecting adjacent but discrete frames into one perception. Each scene has multiple parts, where details come to the forefront in sequence. In these pictures, the details are richly emblematic of a certain kind of life. Inside the house, it's dusty sailing paintings, mismatched crockery, worn threadbare rugs, faded toile wallpaper, and the practicality of a tea kettle and a crackling wood stove. Outside, it's weathered shingles, rusty yard tools, and a wicker chair pulled down onto the dock. The bright light of the morning is never far away, streaming in through the crackled paint of the window frames and offering an ever present vista to the sea.
Hilliard uses the trappings of the house to help chart the emotional landscape of the family, particularly the tenuous, formal relationship between father and son. Lone figures rattle around in the old empty rooms, following the patterns and common behaviours of past generations. The connections are few and far between and time is slowed down to a crawl, where a solitary swim, a slowly smoked cigarette, or a rest on the dock is a moment of reflection or meditation. Reading a left behind book fills the afternoon, and rebellion is measured out by taking one impractical bite from every fruit on the table.
I like the restraint found in these new photographs, where the muted tones of the enduring setting are part and parcel of the subdued human relationships. Hilliard's narratives are often open ended, but their mood here is surprisingly complex and conflicted, built on the steadiness of a family that is at once comforting and stifling.
Collector's POV: The prints in this show are priced based on the size and number of panels in the work. For the works based on 24x20 panels, prices are $3100 (2 panels), $4600 (3 panels), or $6200 (4 panels). For the works based on 40x30 panels, prices are either $5600 (2 panels) or $8300 (3 panels). Hilliard's work has recently begun to show up in the secondary markets, with prices ranging between roughly $2000 and $6000.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
Yancey Richardson Gallery
535 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011