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Art up now–Justin Hahn’s strange people

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on June 29, 2009 at 10:13 am with 1 Comment »
June 29, 2009 10:13 am

Justin Hahn, “Dresden A and B.” Photo courtesy David Domkoski.

Don’t look now, but there are aliens in the library.

Facetious, maybe, but on first sight, that’s what Justin Hahn’s sculptures in the main branch’s Handforth Gallery look like. Four of them have skeletons of steel rod, draped with melted green or white plastic with the texture of goop. Another is a chunky bronze with clunky white polycarbonate hands like minstrel gloves. A bunch of others are tiny stick-figure people about a foot high with steel rod bodies.

Fun for the kids, maybe. But Hahn’s work is more than just a sci-fi film set. His skill at working metal and polymers shows in the delicate machinery of the Dresden figures–two adult-and-child couples built of bent rods attached with hinges, clips, wires and whatnot to achieve a slightly apologetically hunched look. Taller than humans, with protruding round alien bug-eyes, the figures wear melted plastic for flesh, their anatomy just deformed enough to make you look twice. Their brains look carefully sculpted out of red shiny play-dough. Benevolent, they’re frozen in the act of wandering through life, slightly bemused and almost pitiable in their warped plasticity.

Justin Hahn, “BPA Hyatt.” Photo courtesy David Domkoski.

Across the room, “BPA Hyatt” is a bronze man with plastic-coated hands. Hahn, who works daytimes in the Bronze Works, has manipulated the metal into Cubist chunks, the man faceless and chestless, with cancerous protuberances. The white coating on his hands, held out as if desperately begging, is the contaminant Bisphenol-A polycarbonate.

What’s the point here? Hahn, a plastics engineer and self-confessed plastic geek, is showing us ourselves. Deformed and diseased, our bodies have taken on our plastic consumption.

In the corner of the gallery is a different set of bodies. In collaboration with Steve Kanick, Hahn has created tiny stick figures of steel, who earnestly rearrange Kanick’s polymer chairs, pressed and molded like bronze relief.

Also on show is metal sculpture by Marsha Glaziere and Steve Barnard. The show is part of MetalUrge, and is open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays through August 29. The Handforth Gallery is at the Tacoma Public Library’s main branch, 1102 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma. 253-591-5666, www.tacomapubliclibrary.org</div>

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