10 November 2023
Bound in Time
Francis Mattson Hines’
bandaged New York
by Kate Mothes
In the late 1970s and 1980s, public monuments, police cars, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and even JFK Airport provided the framework for a series of architectonic installations by an artist whose work nearly faded into obscurity.
Francis Mattson Hines (1920-2016) experimented with a range of media, taking an experimental approach to sculpture, painting, and large-scale installations. His architectural public installations often draw comparisons to the large-scale works of Christo, who began to wrap objects in the late 1950s. Christo met his wife and lifelong collaborator Jeanne-Claude around that time, and they went on to wrap buildings and landmarks around the world. While Christo and Jeanne-Claude effected a kind of complete encasing, as if wrapping enormous parcels, Hines’ pieces involved stretching strips of thin parachute fabric into compositions that often had a breathable, gauzy appearances, like dressings for wounds.
A year after Hines’ death, a Connecticut man named Jared Whipple tagged along with a friend whose company had been hired to clean out a large barn. When he got there, he was awe-struck by the discovery of a trove of paintings that were headed for the dumpster. There were hundreds of them. After finding the artist’s signature and doing a bit of internet sleuthing, Whipple found images of Washington Arch wrapped in 8,000 yards of bandage-like nylon fabric in 1980. He knew he had stumbled upon something incredible.
The economic slump of the 1970s had led to a glut of foreclosed and abandoned properties in New York City. Buildings fell into decay as absentee landlords defaulted on taxes, and by the mid-1980s, there were more than 100,000 tax-foreclosed properties in the city. Hines began to literally bandage the gaping architecture. The Washington Arch project was also part of a fundraising campaign in 1980, spearheaded by New York University, to clean and restore the monument, which had become a popular target for graffiti.
In the first major survey of his work since his passing, Bound in Time at Hollis Taggart explores the artist’s fascination with wrapping and stretching, spanning early figurative works to later mixed-media sculptures and paintings that straddle the line between figuration and abstraction. The exhibition continues in New York through November 18. Find more on the gallery’s website, and you can read more about Whipple’s story on his website dedicated to Hines’ work.
Header: Photo by Ken Hellburg of Washington Arch wrapping in progress