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THE QUIET WORLD
OF GABI HAMM

by Charlie Finch
 
On my annual trip to the comfy couch at Susan and Michael Hort's Armory Week vernissage for their comprehensive art collection in Tribeca, I found myself a few Sundays ago sitting next to two small paintings by a mysterious middle-aged artist named Gabi Hamm.

One depicted an androgynous head of a poised and reserved young woman, the other a women's head that appeared to be rolling in smoke. These two pieces so mesmerized me during a palaver with Jerry Saltz about his recent debate performance that I kept looking for the chance to grab them and rush downstairs and out the door, with the Horts in hot pursuit. Susan Hort diverted my fancies of larceny by graciously remarking that, "It wouldn't be a party without you on the couch every year, Charlie." (I can think of some dissenters to that sentiment.) So I put my criminal desires, for the moment, aside.

Much of artistic creation nowadays involves the mimesis of the world around us, the† busy proof on the part of artists that they get "it," for us. I saw a show at Taxter & Spengemann last week, for example, that was all about the beauty parlor, its mirrors, powders and emoluments. I prefer the parlor of beauty that lies within, to journey there with Gabi Hamm. Hamm's assumptions are contemplative and disturbingly restful, a timeless well of seduction which her portraits, murky and soulful, provide.

The alleged life portrait of Shakespeare, recently brought forth from the bowels of the Castle Cobbe near Dublin, reminds us anew of the allure of the painted face. If this was Shakespeare, any claimants to his writings, whether the Earl of Oxford or Francis Bacon, are instantly dismissed in his visage, a cool draft of power and beauty in understated repose. Clearly this face could dominate the world, as the faces of Gabi Hamm dominated one Sunday morning at the Horts. That power keeps you looking, weariness and anxiety be damned.


CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).



 



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