Hugo McCloud Uses Art To Examine The Self

Installation view of Hugo McCloud: As For Now at Sean Kelly, New York. Photography: Jason Wyche, Courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York/Los Angeles.

As For Now, Hugo McCloud’s most recent solo exhibition is currently on view at the Sean Kelly gallery in New York. Showcasing McCloud’s signature plastic and tar stamped paintings, the exhibition revisits similar materials from past works while creating a new visual palette. The vibrant colors and raw materials used in the exhibition explore his exposure to new cultures and chapters in his life. Warm tones dominate his canvases, as hints of orange and yellow are seen throughout his pieces. As For Now uses materials such as aluminum sheeting, silver aluminum butane paint, and black liquid tar on tar paper while using pigments and woodblock printing techniques. 

Building on his past exhibition, Burdened Man, which focused on external experiences, McCloud reintegrates materials and subject matters with a new lens. Today, the artist feels a personal connection to the man within the imagery, as he reflects on the burden that is the experience of life. As For Now examines a more internal viewpoint as it investigates the idea of the self, process, and materiality. 

“Art is a continual way of showing how we see things—how we see ourselves,” McCloud says of seeing himself and the people around him within the work he creates. “Wash & Fold” is made up of single-use plastic merchandise bags on panel, reminiscent of his recent travels to Mexico and the communities he learned about and interacted with.

Installation view of Hugo McCloud: As For Now at Sean Kelly, New York. Photography: Jason Wyche, Courtesy of Sean Kelly, New York/Los Angeles.

McCloud’s past pieces have incorporated various industrial media such as roofing materials, solder, and primarily a variety of single-use plastic bags. He continues to incorporate plastic bags within his work, as a signifier for the class system placed upon our society, domestically and internationally. 

But it’s McCloud’s flower series that really steals the show—at the front of the gallery, and made up of single use plastics, the works represent growth and the passage of time, inspired by his daily meditation practices during the height of quarantine. The lifespan of a blooming flower mirrors the journey that we experience as humans as we change over time. 

“I think there’s something interesting about that relation of materials, the relation of the pieces, how it’s all connected,” says McCloud. While the integration of single use plastic can be used as a visual placeholder for day to day life, they also exude a sense of community and similar shared experience.

The exhibition also features abstract wood block-stamped pieces that look as if they could be tiles on a wall, using oil paint, aluminum foil, and liquid tar, on modified bitumen. The materials McCloud incorporates into his work explore a new sense of creativity, and transport the viewer to question the inner self; playing with the idea of what is behind the meaning of life. 

As For Now’ is on view at Sean Kelly gallery in New York through June 22.