Robert Hite creates disorienting, deeply romantic images through a dynamic use of perspective and scale. His stunning “Imagined Histories” series—transformative narratives that juxtapose man-made clapboard constructions and rural landscapes through painting, sculpture, and photography—has earned the American artist a much-deserved John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for 2014.
First shown at the Nassau County Museum of Art in 2011, Hite developed this complex project through model structures that aesthetically recall the informal shacks, houses, and outbuildings of the humble communities of Virginia’s Tidewater region, where he grew up. He situates these sculptures in outdoor surroundings near his studio in Esopus, New York, and produces both film and digital photographs from the uncanny scenography of his temporary installations. This can be seen in the haunting black-and-white prints Duckweed Palace, Mud Flat House, and Prayer House (all from 2006), which set intricate wooden shelters among gnarled and overgrown tree roots, sprawled on piles above silty water, or quietly towering in marshlands at the forest’s edge. Distorting lens effects evident in the mirage-like rippling form of Migration House (2007) or the tinted, inverted reflection of Black Creek Blue (2006) intensify the dreaminess of the series. Often, Hite exhibits the original sculptures alongside his prints and photographs, magnifying the sensorial effect of dislocation and poetically undermining the viewer’s fragile grasp on history, memory, and the real.