The late artist Francis Hines is gaining new attention after a car mechanic rescued hundreds of his paintings from a Connecticut dumpster, vanishing into oblivion.
Hines, an abstract expressionist, gained some recognition in 1980 by using fabric to wrap arches in an intricate crisscross pattern in Washington Square in New York City. But he kept a low profile and fell out of the limelight of the art world, passing away in 2016.
The collection of paintings, which mostly use his signature wrapping style, was found a year later – and this is where the artist’s rediscovery began.
An exhibition of found art will open on May 5 at Hollis Taggart Galley in Southport, Connecticut, a site known for showcasing the works of lost or forgotten artists. An accompanying small exhibition will be shown at the gallery’s flagship location in New York City.
Hines made a decent living as an illustrator for magazines and the G Fox department store, and his personal art was about the process, not selling or exhibiting his work, said Peter Hastings Falk, an art historian. Said, who is helping to curate the exhibition.
So for decades, once he completed a piece, he would ship it from his New York studio to a rental barn in Watertown, Connecticut, where it would be wrapped in plastic and stored.
“To him it was like, ‘Okay, I did that, that was cool, I’ll put it away,'” Falk said. “Once that’s done, it’s done and on to the next project. And if you don’t have a gallery selling your work, it’s going to accumulate a lot.”
Taggart, the gallery’s president and art collector, said he had “never seen anything like it before.”
“In today’s art world there is a certain interest in the different mediums – textiles, fabrics and ceramics – people are trying to find new and innovative ways to present contemporary art,” Taggart said. “He did it back in the ’80s. He was somewhat of a visionary.”
Hines used his wrapping technology at other establishments including JFK Airport and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Taggart said that in his sculptures and paintings, he spread fabric or other material over or through them to create a sense of tension and kinetic energy.
Hines’ work remained stored in Watertown until his death at the age of 96, when his estate largely decided to dispose of the collection because the owner of the barn was selling the property.
Two 40-yard (37-metre) dumpsters filled with sculptures and paintings had already been taken to a landfill when Waterbury-area mechanic and skateboard enthusiast Jared Whipple received a call from a friend, George Martin, to help with the disposal. was doing. Of art
Because some of the paintings included images of car parts, Martin thought Whipple might like them.
Whipple figured he could use the art in a Halloween display, or hang at his indoor skateboarding facility. When he began to cover the plastic with pieces, he began to realize that he was stumbling upon something special.
“But at the same time, you’d never think there was any kind of significance or value, because they’re all in a trash can,” he said.
Most of the works were signed by F. Hines, but Whipple eventually got a smaller canvas painted in 1961, which included the artist’s full name: “Francis Matson Hines.”
He said that when the search on Google began and he spent 4 1/2 years learning about art and knocking on gallery doors, he called it a “rabbit hole.”
That research led him back to the 1980 Washington Square Arch installation, to a book about Hines by his wife, and eventually to Faulk and Hines’ two sons, one of whom, Jonathan Hines, is also an artist.
Jonathan Hines is now working with Whipple, adding other pieces of his father’s work to the exhibition.
“I think it’s fate that Jared will discover my father’s work,” said Jonathan Hines. “It had to be someone from outside the art world. If I hadn’t decided to put the art out, nothing like this would have happened. ,
The family knew the artwork had value – but without critical recognition, they made the painful decision to leave it all, art historian Falk said.
Falk said Hines’ paintings, most of which are owned by Whipple, would be offered for sale at the exhibition, with larger pieces expected to sell for around $20,000.
But Whipple says it’s not about getting rich from something that was nearly lost in a landfill.
“I want to give recognition to this artist,” he said. “And I want to take him to some major museums, just to give him the recognition he deserved.”
Falk said that Hines should be remembered as an important American artist for how he fits into the timeline of abstract expressionism and his unique twist on the technique of rapping. The fact that his work was lost almost forever, he said, only helps shed light on that.
“Now we’re just focusing on the art, not the fact that it was thrown away, not that it was discovered by a skateboarder car mechanic, not on anything else,” Falk said. “Simply art on its own merits.”