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Iteration toes the line of refinement at the risk of boredom (if not exhaustion). So what an engaging surprise to find Michael Henry Hayden’s works, all within a repeating and pared-down formal palette, recasting the iterative as a source of anxious psychological excitement. The bulk of Hayden’s Knock Knock, currently showing at ACME., features a repeating motif: a section of wall, trim, door and light switches, painted in a variety of lighting conditions and mounted on the wall as relief sculpture. A chain lock crosses the gap between the trim and door face, its catenary shadow both real (cast by the gallery lights) and imagined (painted onto the surface).
Each cut-out’s faux-lighting is of a cast as theatrically specific as Barbara Kasten’s work. Hayden mines domestic noir by way of an imminently recognizable shape; the scene ordinary, but increasingly frightening as we review it again and again. The severity and literality of the cropping, the vertigo of the trim and edge suddenly repeating thrice or mirroring down the center, and the lurid coloring and stretched shadows of the depicted light add up admirably. Each work is distinct and part of a curious continuum.
Hayden’s work here is haunting and engaging, though perhaps lacking in economy (somewhere, three-quarters of several doors plot their revenge). The door chain points two ways: towards the threat of an exterior knock and towards an unknowable interior mystery.
Michael Henry Hayden: Knock Knock runs from January 9–February 6, 2016 at ACME. (6150 Wilshire Boulevard, Spaces 1 & 2, Los Angeles, CA 90048).