All the work is from last year. The 16 half-abstract photos came first. They’re pictures of pictures: still-life style shots of color transparencies, their images of landscapes and people (men carrying a canoe; men carrying what could be weapons) hard to read. And each photo has a terse, cryptic one-line inscription: “These are dense countries and empty cities”; “The outside being here right now.”
The transparencies reappear in “Lore.” We see them being slapped down on a light table and pushed around and rearranged by the artist’s restless hand while in voice-over he reads a ruminative text that weaves together references to family, Indigenous myths, colonial trauma, and what sounds like the end of a love affair.
With its scrambled but recurring themes, the text is essentially a long poem, a version of which can be found in a slender new volume of Mr. Hopinka’s writing titled “Perfidia,” designed by the Brooklyn-based publisher Wendy’s Subway and released by Bard to coincide with its survey. If “Perfidia” reads like a collage of ideas and images, much of the film really is one, a visual collage in constant motion, with its images growing darker as the transparencies accumulate.
Yet toward the end of the film there’s a change of scene and mood. We hear the twang of an electric guitar chord and voices tentatively singing, and we’re in a room with a group of musicians warming up, all of them friends of the artist, who himself plays in the band. They slide into Bo Diddley’s 1955 “Heart-O-Matic Love,” a song about love as a road trip — starts slow, hits bumps, keeps going — and they give it a languorous, almost devotional spin. This is a sweet scene, a communal scene, a family scene, a gathering-of-the-tribes scene. In Mr. Hopinka’s art, wherever a tribe gathers is a place to be.
Sky Hopinka: Centers of Somewhere
Through Jan. 10 at CCS Bard Hessel Museum, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.; 845-758-7598, ccs.bard.edu. The exhibition, which closed in October, will reopen on Nov. 28. Admission is by advance reservation.
Sky Hopinka: Lore
Through Nov. 21 at Broadway, 373 Broadway, Manhattan; 212-226-4001, broadwaygallery.nyc.