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Jonathan Hils’ Intersection; a study in the nation’s obsession with cars

Hils’ installation of his Intersection exhibit, showing Bedfellows. The exhibit continues through Jan. 2. Photo provided.

Sculptor Jonathan Hils’ exhibit Frontiers Intersection at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, as he writes in his gallery guide, is “a reference to the American identity.” with automobiles. The exhibit closes Jan. 2.

Intersection is part of the “NEW FRONTIERS: Series for Contemporary Art that underscores the Museum’s commitment to the art of our time and to recognizing contemporary art as a critical and dynamic part of our daily lives,” states the exhibit brochure.

A native of New Hampshire, Hils is an Associate Professor of sculpture at the University of Oklahoma. The recipient of the 2005 Oklahoma Visual Art Coalition Fellowship (OVAC) for outstanding creative work in the visual arts, his work is represented in several private and corporate collections including the Hyatt Corporation, Four Seasons, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, and Equity West Partners.

In Intersections, these are the sculptures of two bodies of ‘60’s muscle cars from the movie Bullitt. In the movie, it is described as a ’68 green Ford Mustang fastback driven by “iconic blond headed, blue- eyed hero of American screen legend Steve McQueen,”

“The other was a Dodge Charger driven by the bad guys. The chase through the streets of San Francisco for at 9 minutes 42 seconds. It is widely regarded as one of the best car chases on screen. The scene plays just outside the exhibit entrance.

He said he loves the fact that things have a beginning and an end, organizing themselves.

All has the same layer of meaning – getting above the earth and seeing the same patterns just seemed to make sense.  For influences, my art was affected by Eva Hesse’s idea of organization. The space and light plays with line.  There’s something very feminine but still strong about it, the artist said.

Hils has an appreciation for things that have faded into history, never to be seen again.

He called Bedfellows the centerpiece – two car bodies, minus wheels, frames or motors, Suspended from the ceiling, they are made of a hollow, lace-like material.

The cars face away from each other, opposite from the chase, “nullifying them, and changing materials also nullifying them. In Bedfellows we are trying to bring back what we had as we face today.”

Hils chose pickup trucks for four of his sculptures because of their iconic status in the South, including, of course, Oklahoma. ”They appeal to vanity; they’re utilitarian, non-utilitarian, and a status symbol. They also resonate with the world as identifiably American,” Hils noted.

In “Passenger” 2010, the art is made of cross-hatching asymmetrical steel rod grids, like a crossword puzzle, made of steel and wire with a rusted finish, and filled with 15,250 multi-colored plastic balls.

Hils said he, “Wanted to make it like a trap, with potential, and with enormous wastefulness.”

Façade, 2010, made out of white plastic privacy fence and stabbed with bouquets of silk flowers, is meant to be seen from the front and propped at an angle against a wall.

Elevation, 2010, is the first piece in which Hils has used light. “It seems to be a sort of dying monolith, knocked over.”

Pitch, 2010, which is solid, is made of wood, steel and shingles. He used the profile of the Cadillac Escalade. The shingles of light grey, grey and black have “been moved around until it’s kind of Hummeresque, Mondrianish. I was playing around with shingles through color itself.  It takes it back to the environmental.

“It’s made out of petroleum.” With the colors of light grey and black, it becomes an SUV “of a militaristic (type). Camouflage is changing to black and grey dots graduated over a military suit,” Hils noted in the gallery.

Intersection is on display until Jan. 2 at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Drive. Call 236-3100 or visit, Exhibits are closed Mondays.

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