Mana Contemporary opens first survey of artwork by Ruth Hardinger

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Mana Contemporary opens first survey of artwork by Ruth Hardinger
Ruth Hardinger, Fourteenth Envoy, (v1) 2009, 15 x 22 x 11 in.

JERSEY CITY, NJ.- Mana Contemporary opened the first sweeping survey of works by Ruth Hardinger (b. 1950) to be presented in the US. Transcending Fields, comprising over 60 abstract sculptures, paintings, and works on paper, brings together the New York-based artist's most definitive creations spanning her 50 year career, many alluding to ancient sites, esoteric spiritual practices, and the universal human practice of making art for the sake for remembrance. Designed by guest curator Xiaokun Sunny Qiu, founder of ArtsRouge International in Shanghai, the exhibition is on view June 3 through August 7, 2021.

Throughout her decades-long career, Hardinger has challenged the conventions of sculpture, yet honored all artists, regardless of culture or period, who share her drive to understand the world through its substances and forms, and who leave behind enduring signs of that vital engagement. Her choice of materials is essential to the dialectical themes in her work: permanence versus ephemerality, essence versus mutability, the known versus the unknowable. As the show's guide sheet observes, “Her deft handling of 'poor materials'—concrete, string, cardboard, graphite, rope, even dried foodstuff—suggests a kind of transubstantiation, an impulse to transcend the mundane, through artistry and evoke the eternal and sublime.” These impulses, and this remarkable body of work, are rendered particularly poignant by the artist's current battle with clinically progressive memory loss.

Trained in classical studies at Hunter College, Hardinger developed a cosmology and a visual language encompassing ancient mythologies, sacred sites of antiquity, and mysterious structures such as the Mn-an-Tol in Cornwall. At the same time, she cultivated a vivid awareness of Western modernism—especially additive sculpture and assemblage, process art, and scatter art. She has traveled often to Latin America, most notably Oaxaca, Mexico, where she has established long-term relationships with local artisans. The cultures she grew familiar with through her studies and travels frequently left representations of themselves through stone, seeking to transcend time and eventually move from the material to spiritual planes of existence. Accordingly, the multi-room exhibition is laid out as a spiraling journey from one contemplative way station to the next.

Much of Hardinger's work combines concrete—treated as a kind of modern quasi-stone—with “throwaway” materials such as packing cardboard, plastic cups, and milk cartons. Her Envoys, Conundrums, Agents, and other sculptures bear the imprint of such disposable objects or sometimes physically incorporate their fragile materials into the work itself. There is also a tension between the raw concrete, a common building material, and its ultimate forms, which recall somber totemic objects found throughout the world. In her choice of materials and production methods, Hardinger (a dedicated environmental activist) evokes not only a shared desire for permanence, but also the ongoing, systematic damage done by humans to their natural world.

Ruth Hardinger: Transcending Fields is organized by Xiaokun Sunny Qiu, C. Michael Norton, and Mana Contemporary in partnership with the Caf Royal Cultural Foundation, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, and the Hardinger Family Trust.

Ruth Hardinger, who lives and works in New York City, has had more than 20 solo exhibitions, and has participated in numerous group exhibitions, both national and international, at such venues as SculptureCenter, New York, and the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid. She has been a recipient of a Fulbright Grant, along with other awards and fellowships. Her work is included in collections such as the Museum of Modern Art Library, the Edward Albee Foundation, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, and the Library of Congress. Hardinger holds a B.A. from Hunter College and studied painting at the Art Students League of New York under Theodoros Stamos.

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