Review: Hot One Inch Action

Photo Cour­tesy of Chris Bentzen

Photo Cour­tesy of Chris Bentzen

Hot Art Wet City proves deter­mined not to bore exhibition-goers: they could not see wordy art­work descrip­tions there even if they wanted to. At the 12th annual Hot One Inch Action last week­end, orga­niz­ers Chris Bentzen and Jim Hoehnle proved yet again that art can be inter­ac­tive, fun, and “buttonized”.

The show took place on a busy night full of events spread all over the city. The gallery’s iconic pink furry draw box stood in a cor­ner of the main room, con­tain­ing mys­te­ri­ous plas­tic bags of but­tons. Inside each bag were five buttons—each printed with work by one of fifty local artists—ready to be min­gled and adored.

I got to the event at its end. The smok­ers sat out­side on the bench, while just under a dozen peo­ple remained inside the gallery—the last ones stand­ing at what must have been a bustling party. The but­tons hung on the walls, single-file: paint­ings and illus­tra­tions hemmed in tiny, cir­cu­lar bor­ders. The cura­tors had not attempted to make the works appear larger or more sophis­ti­cated than what they were, and this uncon­ven­tional setup encour­aged artists to fully express their cre­ativ­ity. The gallery looked com­i­cally empty by then, a stark con­trast to the typ­i­cal grandiose aes­thetic of larger art exhi­bi­tions. I often put my face close to paint­ings at other gal­leries, to get a closer look at the details, the brush strokes, or the tex­ture of the paint. This time, how­ever, I did so sim­ply to look at the illus­tra­tions printed on the but­tons at face value. By reduc­ing the phys­i­cal dis­tance between art and viewer, Hot One Inch Action made me ques­tion tra­di­tional art prac­tices of dis­play and possession.

When I came across Chelsea O’Byrne’s piece, I regret­ted not hav­ing pur­chased any but­tons, or attend­ing the show ear­lier when the trad­ing hap­pened. Her empha­sis on eyes, so present in her illus­tra­tions, trans­ferred pow­er­fully onto this white but­ton: above thin black out­lines of a nose and a mouth, with­out a frame of a face, a pair of hands cov­ered the spaces where two eyes would have been. Instead, two cir­cles of iri­des­cence shone through the hands, the cel­e­brated focal point of the minus­cule presentation.

I felt even more remorse in not hav­ing obtained a set of but­tons when I dis­cov­ered that this might be the last Hot One Inch Action. Thank­fully, some remain­ing but­tons may be sold at the gallery in the weeks to come. And, if we’re lucky, there may even be another round of hot action next year.