Houston

Jim Hatchett

G.V.G. Gallery

Jim Hatchett’s stark, flat paintings of the past several years evoke limitless space, although they are moored at their centers by nichelike areas of applied materials. His recent works are even more reductive and astringent; they are marked by a dissolve between background and foreground. Painted on canvas or scrap wood, they are assembled of materials scavenged from deserts, alleyways, and older buildings. But these castaway remnants are so coherently integrated with the canvases and boards that they collapse distinctions between atmospheric space, walls, panels—and votive offerings.

These are incantatory works; Hatchett refers to them as “desert altars.” They are based on a rectilinear order that affords stability, equilibrium, and harmony. The paintings possess the potential for infinite expansion beyond their incidental edges. But Hatchett erodes his idealized format with irregularities: grid areas don’t align, linear features don’t abut, painted surfaces are covered in chalky swathes, curves intrude. The added materials and painterly handling emphasize fragility, fragmentation, and expressive nuance. The found objects which adhere—twigs, a tiny rock, worn and broken white wooden moldings, old newspapers and crinkly foil—drift into a merely approximate orientation with the verticals and horizontals of their fields, only coalescing toward the center. In some works this middle area is painted white and the projecting ledge is unadorned, awaiting the insertion of the viewer’s souvenir. In Plus/Minus Altar, 1988, dun-colored squares surround a panel of newsprint arranged in a plus sign; the latter sits in a partial frame of three sticks, like a shelf on a wall. The blue zone which surrounds the central figure is barely halted at the borders by patches of white molding, as if the entire panel were adrift in the sky. At the bottom, a minus sign stick seems to swing from a nail, detached and removed from the stability of the altar above it. Hatchett’s fusions of landscape, votive structure, and iconic form only hint at their healing mission.

Joan Seeman Robinson