Best of 2013: Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take

Featured image—of Jim Hodges' poetic 2011 installation, "Untitled," at Gladstone Gallery, New York—is reproduced from Give More Than You Take, the catalog to Hodges' current traveling retrospective, published by the Dallas Museum of Art and the Walker Art Center. One of our top Holiday Gift Books of 2013, it is also a featured title at our booth at Art Basel Miami. Essayist Bill Arning describes the piece: "Hanging from the ceiling, a disco ball slowly spun, reflecting dots of stellar light that circled the room. It caused something akin to the delirium of that dance-party effect whereby one loses the sense of who or what is spinning—you, fellow dancers, or the room—but in the most languid manner. Though disco balls are most often associated with good times and festive occasions, here the pace of the spinning was lugubriously slow, almost glacial, and the silence moved viewers’ thoughts toward the infinite, as "Gate" had done so many years before… Over the course of an hour, the mirrored ball descended into a pond of black water chiseled out roughly in the floor. As the globe sank below the surface— slowly, like a moon sinking below the horizon—the lights on the wall, one by one, fluttered and disappeared… For me, each light soon came to represent one of my college-era crew: Larry, Stevie, Rob, James, Klaus. All long dead, most of them never made it out of their twenties. I have in my photo box an image in which the faces of six young men, cocktails in hand, smile out with the manic grins of uncontainable excitement of starting our adult lives, discovering sex, love, art, and careers. And, as a gay man in my fifties, I am far from unusual in knowing that I am the only one of those six men left alive. Then the last light vanished … the quiet descended, the ball was submerged. Again, as from the very beginning with Hodges, the work offered a simple idea, a beautiful realization, and an open invitation for viewers to interpret it through the lens of their own life experiences, as I just did. I looked around the room where many other folks sat on the floor and realized that my list of names was just one possible list to be recited that day, and that in addition to losses tied to AIDS, other losses—to cancer, accidents, drugs—were also present in the room. Just as the blanket of melancholia threatened to fall upon us, the ball began to spin again, emerging from the water.…"