At Hammer Museum, Nic Hess Climbs the Walls

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(Photo: Josh White)

Symbols, logos, and a whole lot of multi-colored masking tape are the preferred media of Swiss artist Nic Hess. Among his latest projects is a sprawling four-part installation on the walls of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. On view through November 5, “Automatic Crash Response” is a warped game of Chutes and Ladders that mixes expertly applied masking tape, whimsical drawings, and out-of-context corporate identities (is that the Geico mascot or just a sassy lizard?) from the lobby to the exit leading to the parking garage. It’s up to the viewer to figure out how the stylized eagle head of the United States Postal Service relates to a giant hog in a shopping cart, a waterskiier, and the logos of recently failed banks, stacked like dominoes near the main staircase. When it comes time to take down his installations, Hess likes to keep the used tape, squashing it into densely packed, colorful balls. “I like the idea that they are really heavy and round,” explained Hess at a recent lecture at the museum. “Because for me, that’s like the implosion of the drawing and of of this industrial material.”