Steven Hull is an Oakland-based artist known for designing and setting in motion grand conceptual undertakings in which large numbers of artists collaborate, often blindly, to create odd, fresh and startling results. His newest project, AB OVO, is a multi-media visual arts project that will open at ARENA 1 in Santa Monica on January 14 and continue through February 11, 2006.
Hull was inspired by his two children for “Ab Ovo” or “From the Egg”, and chose to use the children’s story as the goal and framework for the show. Nineteen visual artists, including Bruce Yonemoto, Mike Kelley, Glenn Ligon, Jim Shaw, Martha Rosler, Mary Kelly and Inka Essenhigh, were given the MMPI-2TM (Minnesota Multi Phasic Personality Inventory). The test, developed over 60 years ago, remains the most widely used measure of pathology by the U.S. legal system. Customized for child custody settings, the tests produced personality profiles that were anonymously and randomly assigned to 19 writers, including Benjamin Weissman, Leslie Davis and Trinie Dalton. The writers in turn were asked to create children’s stories based on the profiles. The stories were then illustrated by a second group of 19 visual artists including Kelly Barrie, Paul Noble, Ivan Morley, Kaz Oshiro, Ion Birch, Paul P and Marnie Weber.
The gallery installation will feature the illustrations, an audio track of the writers reading their stories, and a picnic table designed by Dewey Ambrosino at which viewers can sit while they peruse the test results, which have been made anonymous.
The tests, stories and illustrations are being published under the title “Catalogue Raisonne: Ab Ovo”, with a forward by Hull and an introduction by Susan Morgan. Participating artists will be present to read from their stories at the book launch Saturday the 14th from 1 – 4pm at Art Catalogues MOCA/Pacific Design Center at 8687 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
Hull’s interest in artistic collaborations animated by chance dates back to his first large project, conducted in 1997, called “Blind Date”. For that enterprise he asked 31 artists to produce a work of art. Those were then anonymously distributed to 31 writers, each of whom was asked to write a response. The collaborators met for the first time at the opening resulting in volatile and humorous situations.
In 2002, Hull produced “Song Poems”, a massive collaboration in which a large group of writers, amateur and professional, wrote poems, which were then given to song writers who made recordings which were then given to visual artists who made videos and album covers. It was documented in a three-CD box set with a startling amount of good material that both aped and mocked the conventional music industry’s system of production and distribution.
In addition to his work as a conceptual facilitator, Steven Hull has exhibited internationally as a painter and sculptor. He has had recent one-person shows at Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Los Angeles, Angstrom Gallery, Dallas, and Steven Wolf Fine Arts, San Francisco. He currently lives in Oakland with his two children Issac and Violet.
Complete documentation of the artwork and stories in Ab Ovo can be found at http://www.abovoproject.com.