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‘Useful Friction’ Opening September 22 in Ellis Hall at Hendrix

Works on display throughout this academic year; September 22 opening reception a prelude to February 2024 visit, concert, artist talk

Useful Friction Sam King 2023 exhibition.pngCONWAY, Ark. (September 18, 2023) — Ellis Hall, home to philosophy and religious studies at Hendrix College, also hosts visual art, a variety of lectures, and occasional music performances. During this academic year it will host all three from artist Sam King. The first opportunity centers on visual art, as the exhibition Useful Friction opens with a 4 p.m. reception on Friday, September 22, 2023.

King says that the paintings in Useful Friction are the result of a pursuit of meaningful relationships of color, line, shape, and material. He calls them embodiments of experience: the passage of time, chance, change, and the formation and abandonment of habits. Works may include older pieces that he has broken down and recombined over several years—a metaphor for the development of a person. “The self, in my view, is realized in negotiation with its context over time,” King writes in an artist statement. “It is a hub within a wider matrix of constantly changing connections.”

“Useful friction refers to the tension between intuitive and grid-based visual structures which drives the composition of my paintings, as well as the tension a viewer might feel when engaging paintings that do not represent familiar imagery,” King writes. “We tend to apply our perception for essential purposes: seeking food, shelter, safety, or pleasure, for example. With this habit as a default setting, perception for its own sake (or for some elusive end), might seem indulgent or unnecessary. I recognize metaphor in this contrast. Is a person’s value merely a reflection of their utility within a system, or can it be internally generated?”

Dr. James Dow, professor of philosophy at Hendrix, is centering Sam King’s Useful Friction exhibit in the course Aesthetics and Contemporary Art, offered in Spring 2023, as the class participants discuss Dada and Abstract Expressionism in the history of 20th century art.

“Sam and I have collaborated on selecting readings, historical examples, and contemporary art to discuss with students in the course,” Dow said. “In addition, students will have the opportunity to engage with Sam King in class to discuss both his paintings and his music and how the two mutually influence each other.”

As a companion to the visual art, King will deliver an artist talk and bring his guitar-based audio project Untight to Hendrix on Thursday, February 22, 2024, from 6 to 8 p.m. Like the September opening, the February event is free and open to all.

While Useful Friction creates visual tension, Untight creates aural friction in its overlaid harmonies.

“Sometimes, notes using the two systems are similar enough that the listener would not notice any difference; other times, the notes beat against each other, creating a shimmering, sometimes disorienting sensation that is for many listeners not quite music, but not merely sound, either,” King wrote in an artist statement. 

Hear Untight on Bandcamp

About Hendrix College

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges and celebrated among the country’s leading liberal arts colleges for academic quality, engaged learning opportunities and career preparation, vibrant campus life, and value. The Hendrix College Warriors compete in 21 NCAA Division III sports. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. Learn more at   

  “… Through engagement that links the classroom with the world, and a commitment to diversity, inclusion, justice, and sustainable living, the Hendrix community inspires students to lead lives of accomplishment, integrity, service, and joy.” —Hendrix College Statement of Purpose