Tony Feher’s installations take inspiration from existing architectural elements, revealing the environment anew for viewers. His artworks’ relationship to the space in which they are presented is inseparably fundamental, and in effect, the architecture becomes a part of the exhibition. In this way, the Hudson (Show)Room and the Artpace facility play leading roles in Thomas Hoving. Feher made two exploratory visits to San Antonio in preparation for this installation to familiarize himself with the gallery space and surrounding environment. This notion of site-specificity is what Robert Irwin coined “site-determined,” allowing the setting to have an upper hand in the artist’s decisions. As a result, metal poles lining the ceiling-which serve a utilitarian function as hanging structures for lighting-inspired three nylon twine works. The recently uncovered Hudson (Show)Room windows, which had been hidden by temporary gallery walls, reveal random panes of differently textured glass appropriated by the artist in a gesture of illuminating the windows with blue painter’s tape.
In 2001, for Red Room and More at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-the-Hudson, New York, Feher introduced blue tape to windows to capture natural light; it has been a constant feature in his work since, including the recent group exhibition, Me gusta el plástico, at Museo de Los Pintores Oaxaqueños in Oaxaca, Mexico. A signature element of Artpace’s physical renovation by Lake/Flato in 1995 was the intermixing of new panes of glass while preserving the unbroken original ones in the former Hudson car dealership. For his Hudson (Show)Room installation, Feher singled out the panes of clear glass, applying layers of tape in three application techniques: cross-hatch, grid, and star. The effect is ethereal, directing the viewer’s attention to the architecture, the light the pieces diffuse, and the transformative illumination of the space. The tape serves as a signifier here: the material, though unusual as an artist’s medium, draws focus to the building’s structure, the windows’ unique characteristics, and the play of natural light in the room. It can also be seen as an unintentional extension of Lake/Flato’s touch.
In addition to the window pieces, Feher presents three works made from thin, fluorescent nylon twine, commonly found in hardware stores. The largest work in the center of the gallery bisects the space in a twisting arc-full of motion, yet delicate in form. At a distance, the palette barely registers to the eye. He exploits a visual phenomena of sight and its interplay with light, and the works seem to vibrate and quiver, giving his arcs volume created by color and reflection.
A trio of clustered plastic beverage bottles filled with colored liquid-a signature of Feher’s-dangle from a single string in a corner of the gallery, twisting to capture the light and reveal new combinations. Elementary color theory plays on perception: a bottle of yellow liquid against a blue results in green. Also found in the space are voluminous tangles of “beads” cut from PEX and PVC tubing draped from horizontal poles along the ceiling. The ropes laden with laced patterns of heavy orange, red, and blue beads represent resolution in a seven-year aesthetic struggle for the artist. He initially encountered a discarded pile of tubing while in residence at The Chinati Foundation in 2005, but this is the first time he has used the material in an exhibition. A native of Albuquerque, Feher is influenced by the colors and cultural artifacts of the region, and his appropriation of tubing in this context gives him ownership over his Southwestern history.
Because of his use of simple supplies and attention to form, Feher’s work is often referred to as a descendant of Minimalism. He appropriates ubiquitous materials to unveil revelatory possibilities in new contexts, and though installations such as Thomas Hoving can take weeks to construct, their precise placement seems innate. The environment triggers his intuition to find the right gesture for a space. Windows cease being just windows, structural buttressing, and hanging hardware-all become a part of the artwork. Feher captures it, presents it in a new light, and in essence makes it his. “It was not until I stopped trying to make art that I finally made it,” he says.