Los Angeles

Patrick Hogan

Tortue Gallery

Throughout his too-short career, Patrick Hogan’s physical limitations determined his working method. All his adult life he worked from a wheel chair. Early on, when he had some use of his hands, he produced paintings on raw felt and kapok. He would brand canvases with a glob or two of paint, gestures that took the form of willful smears. These paintings are blunt, minimal, and somewhat surreal. The acrylic brushstrokes seem to float off the cloudlike surfaces.

Eventually Hogan devised a method of painting whereby an assistant would execute his work, yet no trace of the assistant’s touch would be visible. It worked like this: rope was wrapped around a fat barrel and painted according to Hogan’s instructions. Then it was unwound and nailed to a plywood support in geometric configurations. All this was intricately thought out in advance. Hogan filled in the nonroped centers with shallow pools of painted gesso or Rhoplex, which dried and cracked.

These areas have an eerie biological quality; at times, they resemble cake icing, at others, shallow pools of congealed mucus. In some pieces, Hogan coated entire paintings with a thin membrane of Rhoplex. This worked as a muting device: tiny strands of rope protrude in all directions like benign candy-coated prickles.

Hogan’s paintings are tight decorative objects loaded with tension—large, bulky, tactile, optical wonders. They move from being intricately speckled systems of color to cool airless corridors of space. They are austere, sedate, and repellent. Thematically, his work is very much the epitome of the window and the prison. His vision comes across as something caught, surrounded, trapped. Perhaps this is an obvious and unwanted interpretation, but it is nearly unavoidable. I cannot look at these paintings without thinking of Hogan’s actual body. The abstractions almost always took the form of contortions that paralleled Hogan’s own tiny pretzeled figure. Emotional response is seldom what a pure abstractionist wishes to elicit. But Hogan’s imagery and working method are inseparable. The paintings can be read both on strictly formal terms—depth, flatness, size, shape, texture, repetition—and as personifications of a kind of bondage.

With the use of a mouthpiece, Hogan produced a number of small watercolors and ballpoint-pen drawings. These works, though identical in theme to the paintings described above, possess curious differences. Here, the brushstrokes literally resemble taut muscle tissue. The works have a soulful fury about them. Hogan’s actual touch is graceful and somewhat frightening. The artist’s courage and intellectual aggressiveness were inspirational on the L.A. art scene. His recent death has left the city in a disquieting state of remembrance.

Benjamin Weissman