Fall 2011

The Illusionist

Artist Gregory Michael Hernandez (’99) bends reality with his imaginative, geometrical installations

By Betsi L. Freeman

Visitors to the Emma Gray Headquarters art gallery this summer were immersed in a 3-D optical illusion: Flatland, an installation project by artist Gregory Michael Hernandez.

To produce Flatland, Gregory first went to the Mojave Desert and built a frame replicating the shape of the gallery, intersecting with an existing abandoned homestead. He then photographed the combined structures, returned to Emma Gray Headquarters, and installed intricate paintings, wooden boards and gradated shadows at precise angles. Taken together, it is as if the viewer is in the homestead, looking out at the desert beyond.

“If you stand in the right spot, you get the perspective of a house around you, and only a portion of it is actually physically in the space, and the rest of it is sort of shadows and paintings,” Gregory said. “The gallery has always been seen as a white cube, and as a white cube, it exists apart from the world and allows you to focus on the art object. I wanted to play with the idea of bringing things into the gallery, or specifically, bringing the wilderness into the gallery … bringing real life into the space.”

Since graduating from Biola in1999 with a degree in drawing and painting, Gregory has pursued art wholeheartedly, employing his skills in math, construction and photography in conjunction with more traditional art forms.

“In the past couple of years, I’ve been playing with this idea of how through visual language and perception, how can you pique the imagination of people to consider two different things happening in one space?” Gregory said. “Giving the viewer a sense that you are here, but you’re also somewhere else.”

Gregory’s earlier 2011 project The Dig, a re-creation of a 1977 Bruce Metro project, found him following in the footsteps of another performance artist by digging a hole and taking self-portraits at various heights. The photographs were then layered onto a background photo of the boarded-up Los Angeles Hall of Justice.

“I thought about the time-space connection between [Metro] and I, because I repeated his actions on the same exact day, exactly 34 years after he did. I followed the time intervals … when he took a picture at 1:30 p.m., I took a picture at 1:30 p.m.,” Gregory said. “To me, digging has become a metaphor of pretty much what I do as an artist. I find something, I want to know what’s underneath the surface, I’m digging it up.”

Gregory, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Elise Barclay, credits Biola with giving him dedicated mentors, and opening his eyes to the world he would be entering upon graduation.

“It was a four-year incubation period where I was able to weave together the historical traditions of my faith and thinking about the classic images and texts of the faith tradition, and thrusting that into this art conversation for hundreds and hundreds of years … and combining that with the culture around us,” Gregory said.

Over the past 12 years, Gregory has supported himself by setting up other artists’ installations in art galleries in the Los Angeles area, picking up skills in construction along the way. He currently works for Susanne Vielmetter Gallery in Culver City, which has given him networking opportunities with curators and art collectors. Gregory is also a recent recipient of an Emerging Artist Grant from the California Community Foundation.

“I’ve never been the type to run up to somebody and say, ‘Here’s my card,’” Gregory said. “I’ve always been sort of quiet and just done my job, and if somebody asks me about my job, well then, I’ll answer. And I think L.A.’s the type of place where, if you quietly do your thing and are constantly improving yourself and your own work … if it’s good, eventually it’s going to get noticed.”

 

 

 

Online Extra: ‘Captive Universe #58: Biola Bell Tower’

Gregory Michael Hernandez created a build-it-yourself 3-D representation of Biola's iconic Bell Tower just for Biola Magazine. To assemble it, follow these instructions:

  1. Download the image below or the hi-res pdf version and print out a full-page copy (or a few, in case you make any mistakes). Thicker paper will make the project easier for you.
  2. Cut the image out along its outer edges.
  3. Fold every straight edge that joins a square to an octagon, leaving a sharp crease.
  4. With the image facing down, fold each “arm” upward from the center until it touches the adjacent “arm.” Tape each edge together from the inside.
  5. The completed product should look similar to the shape at the right.
  6. Share your work! Email a photo of yourself with your finished Biola Bell Tower to biolamag@biola.edu or post it on our Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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