Cultured Magazine

Winter 2014

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When Hugh Bush sits down to chat about his art in the chintzy restaurant at Manhattan's Lowell Hotel, his hair is still wet. He'd been in the city for only an hour. After tea, he's headed off to a party at the Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Then it's back to his home base of Miami—all less than 24 hours after leaving Martha's Vineyard, where he also keeps a studio. Such a hectic schedule is hardly unusual for the art collector-turned-painter. And things are about to get even busier with a solo exhibition at Sarah Gavlak's gallery in Palm Beach in March. "I move around a little bit like a gypsy," he says, sipping his chamomile. This nomadic lifestyle has taken him to the world's finest museums and inside the inner circles of the art fair and gallery circuit, providing an ongoing education in art history that can be seen in his constantly evolving artistic practice. "I guess I just fell under the seduction of paint," Bush says of his transition from art enthusiast to professional art-maker. The interest in art had always been there, going back to when he was a student at Columbia University and made his first art acquisition: a Keith Haring subway drawing he peeled off the wall. (It remains in his collection all these years later, albeit restored and framed.) As Bush began to make his way in the film industry, he continued to explore and experiment with art as a collector and hobbyist, creating photographic collages with images of his friends, many of them artists. He called the works "co-saics," an amalgam of collage and mosaics. "As I continued to make them, the distance between the photographs became larger and larger. Finally, the photographs disappeared all together," Bush says. "I had to ease into painting, because it's a daunting task to be a painter in the 21st century after so many centuries of painters that have come before—I've seen so much art and all of it influences me." His early paintings, made about a decade ago, read like a mashup of art history. Using the ancient medium of tempera paint, which he mixed from pigment and egg himself, Bush painted models before pressing their bodies onto a canvas—an analogue to the handprint paintings of the caves at Lascaux and Yves Klein's human paintbrushes—before adding gestural brushstrokes suggesting limbs and details like a carefully rendered tooth or ear. This past summer, however, Bush began to approach the figure in a totally new way: as ghostly, spray-painted totems. "Before, I had these tiny little brushes and I was doing minute detail, but I just wanted to do something bold and to be free of other conventions that were more traditionally painterly," Bush says of the new body of work. While the transition may seem jarring, his interest in the human form and in the element of the subconscious in art remains—maybe even stronger than ever. "Here, there's no brush at all—it comes straight from the mind to the hand to the canvas." 118 CULTURED With an upcoming solo exhibition, Hugh Bush completes the transition from patron to painter. BY HEATHER CORCORAN PORTRAIT BY JASON RODGERS Collector's Edition

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