When Gallery 27 reopens on Sept. 16, one of the most prominent changes you’ll see is the addition of what staff has started calling “The Cube.” Originally conceived as an enclosed storage space for art, it evolved into a gallery within a gallery—it’s a free-standing structure, 10 ½ x 10 ½ x 10 ½ feet. I didn’t want it to seem a part of the architecture, so from the exterior it looks like an object, a sculpture, with a surface treatment that is very different from the smooth, off-white gallery walls. The Cube is sheathed in unfinished birch plywood secured to an interior support structure with drywall screws that remain visible, as do the seams where the plywood sheets meet.
It appears at first to be impenetrable, but as you move around it, you’ll discover a doorway on the back side leading into a space that is finished with drywall, spackled and painted, open to the gallery ceiling above, the antithesis of the exterior of the form. The inner walls will be painted a darker color and maybe the floor inside will be carpeted. I envisioned a confined, private space for viewers to experience Texas artist Trenton Doyle Hancock’s crowded, obsessively detailed 2002 series Bye and Bye (Nine Sad Etchings). Born in 1974, Hancock is well known for his visionary images depicting a fictitious world inhabited by protagonists who are the half-plant, half-animal “Mounds.” Throughout all of his work, Hancock has developed this narrative, combining allegory, humor, and satire into an epic story of conflict, survival, and redemption.
The Cube isn’t the reinstallation’s only gallery-within-a-gallery space. In an even smaller space—you can only look in, not enter it—will be the mixed-media sculptural tableau Murder in Hawaiian Shirts (1989) by Dennis Oppenheim (1938-2011), who studied at the University of Hawai‘i–Manoa in the 1960s and sadly passed away earlier this year. Oppenheim is known for his sense of humor (sometimes a bit strange, as in Murder in Hawaiian Shirts), love for unconventional scale and use of unusual materials. Murder comprises two enormous headless, armless human torso forms attired in oversized lime-green “aloha” shirts with printed images of fish and other sea creatures. As if in a nightmare, the images on the shirts turn into blood-red three-dimensional objects that cascade down the shirts and onto the floor.