He Wrapped Landmarks in Fabric. Years Later, His Art Turned Up in a Dumpster.


The gauze-wrapped building stood above East Village like a bandaged wound. It was in May 1979, when artist Francis Hines covered an abandoned five-story tenement house with a 3,500-yard white cloth, loosely sealing the inside of a messy drug needle and a crumbling wall. ..

At the time, Hines’s friend said the soft, undulating installation brought “life, beauty and potential” to East Village, a symbol of civil neglect at the time.

Before disappearing from the world of art, Hines was highly acclaimed for wrapping this building and other New York City buildings, including the Washington Arch, with cloth. He died in 2016 at the age of 96.

His work was rediscovered a year later by a Connecticut man, Jared Whipple. He has found hundreds of Mr. Hines’ paintings in the trash can, and since then his mission has been to get Mr. Hines the attention he deserves as an artist.

Over the past five years, 40-year-old Whipple has examined Hines’ diary, contacted the artist’s friends and relatives, and dug up archive footage. His work as a self-taught Hines scholar reaches a milestone this week when some of the paintings found in the trash can are put up for sale.

The solo exhibition will take place Thursday at the Holistaggart Gallery in Southport, Connecticut, accompanied by a small presentation in New York City.

Mr. Hines’s escape from ambiguity came when Mr. Whipple was invited to a barn devastated by a friend hired to clean it up and found out that Mr. Whipple liked to retrieve the discarded material. It started in September 2017.

In the outside trash can, he found a neat stack of hundreds of canvas wrapped in heavy plastic and thought it was the job of a hobbyist.

“When we started opening them, it was when we realized that there might be something more in it,” Whipple said.

Mechanic Whipple, who also maintains the church building, said he was attracted to the vibrant color depictions of destroyed cars and auto parts. He decided to bring the collection to his warehouse. So he spent more than 10 years building an indoor skateboard park.

Whipple learned the artist’s identity after discovering one of his full-name signed paintings, Francis Mattson Hines. By searching online, Whipple arrived at a book that Hines’ wife, Sondra Hines, published at her own expense about her husband’s most famous work, the Washington Arch installation. In 1980, he wrapped the arch in 8,000 yards of white polyester as part of a fundraising campaign by New York University to restore the monument.

In a video provided by Whipple, former New York Times art reporter and critic Grace Glueck praised the installation.

“I think it’s very handsome. As I said before, everything that covers the Washington Square Arch was brilliantly ugly. I think it’s fascinating,” Grueck said.

Hines, who worked as a commercial illustrator, continued to sculpt, paint, and sketch after important installations, but did not receive much attention from the galler.

For decades, Whipple said he shipped the finished work to a barn in Watertown, Connecticut, rented it for storage and used it as a main studio in the 1970s.

For the past decade or so, barn owners have repeatedly requested Mr. Hines to move art because he wanted to sell the property.

He never did. Instead, he piled up protected art under soil, dirt, and animal dung, leaving the project to another day, or another person. After Mr. Hines died, his family took what was most meaningful to them, leaving behind the mountains that Mr. Whipple found.

Whipple has an insatiable desire for information about the artist and has contacted his friends and associates who share photos, videos and letters. Whipple searched for photographer Kenhelberg for two years. He searched the basement for a 35mm slide of Mr. Hines’ work.

Rev. Alan Johnson, 78, who had known Hines for decades and regarded him as one of his best friends, said in a telephone interview that he was grateful for Whipple’s discovery and tenacity. ..

Johnson is a board member of the United Churchboard for the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, which sponsored the East Village Project in 1979, and was interviewed by the Times in 1979.

“Francis Hines chose a location in a troubled city and brought something of life, beauty and potential to it,” Johnson said.

He and Mr. Hines went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to share the success and sadness of a single malt scotch at Whitehorse Tavern. Johnson said Hines is one of the few places to visit north of 14th Avenue. In Manhattan. Artists have always insisted that they only visit the African art department.

“He got off, looked at the artifacts, looked at these beautiful bowls and pictures, and said,’By hand, people made this, making it functional and convenient,'” Johnson said. Told.

Johnson said Sondra Hines, who died in 2013, would have admitted that her husband’s work was gaining new recognition. In a catalog of his work, Hines writes his dedication to Sondra. “Without her talent and her devoted work, much of what I do will never see the light of day.”

Johnson says Whipple is the ideal guardian of his friend’s art because he works on the project in a practical and practical style in line with Hines’ philosophy that “art solves problems”. Said.

Hines’s son, Jonathan Hines, said in Whipple’s statement that it was “fate” that someone outside the arts discovered his father’s art, and he decided to keep it. If so, he said it wouldn’t have happened. Instead of throwing it away.

“The bottom line is that my dad finds him worthy,” Hines said.

Mr. Hines’ new attention to art was compared to the work of Bulgarian-born artist Christ. Christo, along with his wife and his collaborator Jeanne-Claude, used fabric to cover and create structures such as the Arc de Triomphe. Christ, who used only his name, died in 2020.

Starting this week, the Connecticut Gallery, which will showcase Hines’ work, specializes in drawing attention to lost and forgotten art. The owner of the gallery, Hollis Taggart, was introduced to the Hines collection by art historian Peter Hastings Fork.

Taggart said he was impressed with Hines using pastel on board and then wrapping the painting in cloth. This is something he has never seen before.

“In today’s modern market, there is a great deal of interest in alternative media. There are many works made of cloth, ceramics, installations, wall hangings, etc.,” says Taggart. “What he did with painting fabrics is similar to what many artists do today with alternative media.”

Taggart said about 30 of Hines’ works, including paintings, drawings and sculptures, will be on display next week. He said prices start at $ 5,000 to $ 8,000 for paper pieces, $ 20,000 to $ 35,000 for wrapped paintings, and $ 55,000 for sculptures.

The profit of the sale will be paid to Mr. Whipple. Whipple said he plans to spend most of his money upgrading the warehouse in Waterbury, Connecticut, which displays the works of Hines and local artists.

The exhibition may look like the culmination of the Francis Hines project, but Whipple said gaining artist recognition is another step in his mission.

He is also working on a documentary about Mr. Hines and wants to see the works of the artists on display at major museums in New York City.

Whipple and Johnson admitted that Hines was a human being of our time and did not share any concerns about his heritage.

In an interview with the Times in 1979, Hines revealed that his work wasn’t valuable after someone ignited an East Village installation and ate up a gorgeous sash of fabric.

“No matter what happens, it happens,” Hines said. “It’s almost part of the process. Your work is affected by all sorts of things, including weather and vandalism.”


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