New York

Patrick Hogan

Michael Walls Gallery

Patrick Hogan’s work engages one’s attention in a way that, in some respects, seems to have affinities with a use of materials like Eva Hesse’s. The hairiness of Hogan’s paintings at their edges, combined with the irregularity of the perimeter’s line, hints at a kind of choice I associate with Hesse: the selection of materials which are in themselves implicitly indefinite, or incompletely controllable.

Hesse seemed to use fiberglass because that material guarantees unpredictable nuance and vicissitude. Its ragged edge and uneven surface matched her intuitive—but not unprogrammatic—way of working. This is, I think, a blurring of the difference between two distinct sources of experience which allows them to be identified with—and inseparable from one another. Two kinds of trace, those determined by Hesse’s gesture and by the physical nature of fiberglass, are made inextricable. It’s an expressionist strategy, which to some extent displaces the artist’s role in an interesting way. In Hesse’s sculpture, in Pollock’s drip paintings, and in the more recent work of some other artists, the material itself generates a surface and configuration evocative of expressionism’s reliance on personal idiosyncrasy or obsession as the primary agent of signification, but does so in a way that implicitly subverts the authority of signature.

Hogan seems to want to use this kind of automatically disturbed surface as the ground for a differentiation between the propensities of the material and its manipulation by a controlled, but clearly imposed, group of gestural marks. These characteristically occur around the diagonal which breaks the rectangle in two. At the center of the work, then, one gets a reassertion of physical control which brings one back to the questions of personal decision raised at the outset by the color and format. The diagonal, in at least one of the works, is not only a physical division but also one that casts a shadow. But this is a reference to pictorial conventionality rather than a straightforward denial of it. His work is both a critique of painting and an appropriation of its conventions for other ends, a reduction of the scope of pictorialism’s traditional modes of address in favor of a concentrated depiction of an ultimately “personal” set of concerns. This is, I suppose, what people mean when they talk about an art of pure sensibility. Like Hesse’s work, Hogan’s leaves one in no doubt that one is confronted by an equation of personal hesitancy with the uncontrollability of things in themselves. I was impressed by the show, but came away thinking about the expressionist dilemma. It’s odd that going outside the conventionally impersonal confines of a medium should so often lead to art reliant on virtuosity of such an institutionalized, and familiar, sort.

Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe