Tightly drawn shutters and obsessive arrangements are common to the subject of Sarah Hobb’s recent show titled Emotional Management, on view at Solomon Projects until January 9, 2010. Through seven photographs, Hobbs guides us from the public space of the gallery to view bizarre behaviors that have taken place within a private residence. Although the tasks documented in these images may seem odd and unnecessary, they are critically important to the person who performed them.
In the photo Escapism, an illustration of avoidance shows how it can actually imprison us. White pillows cover the floor in the corner of a room, and the surrounding walls are lined with printed images of a blue sky. The space provides comfort and withdrawal from looming projects, endless lists, and unavoidable errands. This photograph will resonate with anyone who has ever been overwhelmed.
However, this false sense of security is erased in Purging, where several pages are ripped from a diary and pinned to the wall in a grid. Each page has only the residue of writing; the disappearance is emphasized by the shredded eraser remnants that have gathered on the carpet. After attempts to alleviate anxiety through journaling, the author became frustrated and tried to forget what was written. Hobbs creates an ongoing narrative in a single photograph reminding us that, in the midst of emotional suffering, trying to suppress the situation is often futile.
In Until I See Something Good, neatly arranged shopping bags, stacks of office paper, and other improvised materials transform into hundreds of home-made psychology tests. The Rorschach method, now largely considered psuedoscience, becomes a final attempt at self-understanding. The office desk is consumed with the inkblots on paper, creating a visual parallel to the clutter of a preoccupied mind. Similar imagery is repeated in Procrastination. Instead of confronting the paper forming piles on the desk, the absent person has chosen to tediously attach chains of paper clips that hang end-to-end from the ceiling, veil the desk, and finally drape onto the floor.
As in some of Hobbs’ earlier work, these images share a penetrating understanding of the nature of anxiety and avoidance—seen through the photographer’s translation of abstract emotions and behaviors into scenes of solid, tangible objects. Like Bruce Nauman’s “mental spaces,” the work in Emotional Management documents several isolated incidents that mirror the complex, cyclical, and seemingly never-ending patterns of the human condition.