Everything We Know 2003 is a large colour photograph depicting a park scene with part of a very thick tree trunk dominating the foreground, while the background is mostly filled with much thinner trees with branches bearing leaves. Very rough, hard-looking bark covers the closer tree trunk, which has a large hole in its right side. Apart from the spot of light at its left, the trunk has a dark, shadowed surface that contrasts significantly with the bright light that suffuses the rest of the image. The bottom left and bottom right areas of the photograph show an expansive lawn bordered by trees that recedes into the background and features two paths, one of which has a figure walking along it. In several places in the image, the leaves of the trees in the background have been partially cut away from the photograph and folded over, revealing the white underside of the photographic paper. These leaf shapes are positioned in all different directions, and some are made from cut-outs of individual leaves and others from clusters. Due to the fact that they are so small and thin, these shapes appear extremely delicate and give a feathered texture to the work’s surface. Their white tone also adds to the effect of bright light in the photograph, and at several points they overlap with the tree trunk very slightly, heightening the contrast between the dark foreground and light background.
This work was made by the American artist Jim Hodges in 2003. It is one of a group of images that he created between 2002 and 2010 by taking photographs of landscapes featuring trees, printing them, mounting them on paper, and then cutting the shapes of many of the leaves away from the pictures’ surfaces and folding them over (see, for instance, where the sky fills in 2002, Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Just this (the end) 2010, private collection). Like all of the works in this group, Everything We Know was made as a chromogenic print, yet unlike the others Hodges mounted this particular work onto fabric. Everything We Know is also distinctive for the sheer number of cut-out leaves on its surface, since other photographs in the series do not feature so many.
The title of the work employs an enigmatic phrase that prevents any particular reference point from emerging. Hodges has suggested that this is deliberate, stating in 2013 that the titles of his works are often designed to produce an evocative but indefinite impression that can elicit ‘a particular mood or an ambiance’, and that they are ‘applied as one might put on a scent, such as perfume’ (quoted in Olga Viso, ‘The Eros of the Everyday’, in Dallas Museum of Art 2013, p.130).
Everything We Know is one of several works by Hodges that engage with natural forms. The artist is particularly well known for his series of sculptures in which large numbers of silk flowers were attached to curtain-like swathes of fabric that hung down from the ceiling (see, for instance, A possible cloud 1993, private collection, and Changing Things 1997, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas). Prior to this, Hodges had worked with similar silk floral decorations in ways that did not involve attaching them to sheets of material, but said in 2003 that he decided to make his hanging works after becoming interested in ‘returning the flowers back to fabric … I wanted to re-establish the material’s fabric nature’ (Ian Berry, ‘You Ornament the Earth: A Dialogue With Jim Hodges’, in The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery 2003, p.13). Everything We Know may have been prompted by a similar interest, as this work emphasises the material basis of the landscape photograph by revealing the underside of its paper sheet and giving the work a tactile, three-dimensional surface. Furthermore, in Everything We Know Hodges could be seen to be visually reconnecting the photographic paper with its original source: the trees.
Jim Hodges, exhibition catalogue, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Saratoga Springs 2003.
Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take, exhibition catalogue, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas 2013.
Supported by Christie’s.