Hopeton St. Clair Hibbert
Hopeton St. Clair Hibbert, Jr. (b. 1975) is an Atlanta-based intra-disciplinary contemporary artist who explores the abstract connections between humanity and nature across various media. Hibbert’s work articulates the frenetic cycles of the human experience and attunes our senses to discover the world's often unseen beauty by linking the physical and metaphysical worlds. Influenced by renowned photographer Gordon Park's approach to documenting life across media and the Spanish sculptor Julio González’s alchemic mastery of metal, his mixed media works, including works on paper—created using Hibbert’s characteristic, ultra-detailed technique called hyper sharpening—freestanding sculptures alike.
Born of Jamaican descent and raised in Hillsboro, New Jersey, by his mother—a personal chef and artist in her own right—Hibbert relocated to Atlanta as a teenager in 1993. He began his journey in the culinary arts after attending culinary school at Johnson & University in Charleston, SC, graduating in 1998 with a degree in Culinary Arts. During that time, Hibbert was gifted a camera and began to explore his interests in photography and ways of seeing that overlapped with his culinary expertise. Hibbert’s work transforming lesser-known aspects of perishable, seasonal ingredients into a unique, gastronomical experiment for diners as a chef was a catalyst to shaping unsuspecting materials of his choosing into a delightful and thought-provoking experience for viewers as an artist.
Embracing the nuances of his self-taught photography and sculpture practice, the artist uses an expansive series of imagery to convey themes of social, cultural, and spiritual ephemerality and terra firma phenomena that reimagine the connections between humanity and nature. His hyper-sharpening method employs various toned black acrylic embellishments to give detail to a two-dimensional surface, slightly raising elements of the image to further engage the senses as in “London Plane Tree Study.” His series “Ode to John Henry” references the Black American folk tale of the steel-driving man whose persistence and determination ultimately cost him his life as something of a cautionary tale of man vs. machine. The series features found materials of wrought wood and iron found along the railroads of South Atlanta as an acknowledgment of the city’s industrial roots amongst its rapid gentrification and widening income gap.
Since recommitting himself to his artistic practice in 2017, Hibbert has continued to explore narrating themes of transitory surfaces and has exhibited in locations along the Eastern United States, including SITE Gallery (Brooklyn, New York) and Rush Arts Gallery (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). His first solo exhibition, Exploited Textures, was curated by Michi Meko in 2019. In 2022, Exploited Textures II was shown at Jennifer Balcos Gallery in early 2022 as a reexploration of its predecessor and received critical acclaim. He has been awarded a 2023 CreATL Grant by Invest Atlanta and featured in the documentary series Our Voices. Our Lives (2023). Hibbert lives and works in Atlanta, GA, and is dually represented by Gallery Anderson Smith and Gallery 2310.
Hopeton St. Clair Hibbert, Jr.’s work articulates the abstract connections between humanity and nature through the frenetic cycles of the human experience. Anchored by his curiosities within space, form, and time, Hibbert’s work seeks to negotiate sensory discovery through haptic illusions by drawing our attention to the world's often unseen beauty by linking the physical and metaphysical. Influenced by photographer Gordon Parks and Spanish sculptor Julio González, working across media, the artist’s reverence for history, nature, gastronomy, and dynamism culminate into various works on paper, wood & freestanding mixed media sculptures.
Embracing the nuances of his self-taught photography and sculpture practice, the artist uses an expansive series of imagery to convey themes of social, cultural, and spiritual ephemerality and terra firma phenomena that reimagine the connections between humanity and nature. His London Plane Tree Study series—various 90mm lens images of the tree trunks that line the streets of Brooklyn, New York—includes shedding bark and amalgamations of moss that form abstract depictions of humans (“Man, Woman and Child”) and even their mythical counterparts as in “Cyclops.” Each of the works in the series are printed on weighty watercolor paper (somerset velvet) are “tactilized,” an illusionary effect, where the black tones in the image are meticulously embellished with black acrylic paint, then layered in clear matte and gloss acrylics that add a three-dimensional effect. While these trees appear to be an unassuming part of an urban environment, Hibbert’s eye for capturing and enhancing their subtle evolution encourages viewers to take a closer look at how growth and development occur in all living things, themselves included.
The artist continues his contemplative journey into the human experience through sculpture series like Ode to John Henry. The long-standing collection references the Black American folk tale of the steel-driving man whose persistence and determination ultimately cost him his life as something of a cautionary tale of man vs. machine. Ode features found materials of wrought wood and iron found along the railroads of South Atlanta as an acknowledgment of the city’s industrial roots amongst its rapid gentrification and widening income gap. Several of the pieces address various layers of this concept. “Don’t Forget We’ve Been to War”—an abstraction of a soldier who salutes with arms of decaying wood and whose torso is made of rusted iron chains— reflects how Black soldiers are constantly sought after and later discarded. At the same time, “X” is a tribute to the life and enduring legacy of Malcolm X. Particularly in a time where the value of human contribution is contested and exchanged for artificial intelligence, the works encompassed in Ode to John Henry find contemporary meaning for all who experience them.
Taken together, Hopeton St. Clair Hibbert, Jr.’s broad catalog of work breathes life into previously neglected material and embodies an abstract approach to contemporary issues.