39 Verbs at Packer Schopf Gallery

by Jeriah Hildwine

laurie.jpg

Bunnies by Laurie Hogin (though not those featured at Packer Schopf)

Steph and I had been in Kentucky for the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot, but expedited our return so we could attend a one-night only event at Packer Schopf Gallery.  I always make it a point to attend Packer's events, as they are almost always excellent, and this one proved to be no exception.  Produced by Industry of the Ordinary, the exhibition consisted of 39 artists, each of whom made a work of art inspired by a prompt in the form of a single verb, different for each artist.

Of the 39 works in this show, many rewarded the viewer with an engaging
concept or provocation, but one absolutely stood out for me as being
exactly the kind of work I like to see:  a combination of relevant
subject matter that appeals to my personal interests, and technical
virtuosity in my favored medium (highly technical representational
painting).  These were Laurie Hogin's responses to the verb, "Produce."

I will be the first to admit that my excitement over this work is
personal, subjective, and biased.  Hogin works in a medium I love, and
she uses it very well.  Moreover, her subject matter (food politics) is
a subject of much recent interest to me.  The work itself consists of a
grouping of paintings hung on the wall, in front of which was set up a
folding table stocked with "corn-based fruit simulants for children,"
mostly fruit-flavored sugary breakfast cereals and the like.  Hogin
herself manned the table to disseminate information on food politics,
food policy, and food science; for example, that chain restaurants hire
food scientists to engineer appetizers that pack the maximum density of
lipids into an appetizer to simultaneously taste delicious and create a
feeling of greater hunger to inspire the diner to order a larger main
course. 

I've been an avid reader on this subject for a few years now, devouring
(sorry) not only Michael Pollan's best-selling The Omnivore's Dilemma
and In Defense of Food, and Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, but also
lesser known works such as Food Politics by Marion Nestle (no relation) and Sacred Cow, Mad Cow by Madeleine
Ferrieres and Jody Gladding.  Films like King Corn and Supersize Me!
round out the array of recent work on the topic, to say nothing of the
reams and reams of scholarly journals with articles too arcane for the
casual reader (like myself).  It's an interesting and important topic,
for anyone who eats.  Hogin is passionate and knowledgeable about the
subject, and gives a good presentation.

What separates Hogin from anyone else with a passion and a soap box are
her paintings.  I have said before and I will say again that I am a
sucker for good painting, particularly when tight, accurate, realistic
representation is combined with originality in subject matter and
style.  This is precisely what Hogin does, and it gives great power to
what she has to say.  I can't speak to how persuasive the argument is,
as I'm a well-indoctrinated member of the food politics choir, but the
paintings are if nothing else certainly an eloquent case for hearing
Hogin out.

The work in 39 Verbs consists of a grouping of small oil-on-panel
paintings of individual, psychedelic bunny rabbits, all titled
Reproduce.  The rabbits fur is brightly dyed, echoing the hues in the
packaging of the artificial foodstuffs on the table below, and each has
a twisted, menacing grimace on its eerily human face, like Chucky taking a dump.  The top tier of
paintings each measure 8" x 10", with those below it somewhat smaller
(6" x 6.75").  According to Hogin, she envisions further permutations
of multiple, smaller canvases below those on exhibit, each tier getting
smaller in size, greater in number, and closer in color to the
packaging on the table.

Perhaps obviously, I triangulate the position of Hogin's work as in
relation to Alexis Rockman
and Walton Ford
Hogin shares Rockman's interest in ecology, in systems, and in the ways
human civilization is shaping nature; her paintings share Rockman's
glossy surface and hyper-saturated color.  With Ford, Hogin shares an
apparent love of painting individual animals, however dysfunctional
they may be, and the appropriation of the 19th Century convention of
the use of animals as allegories for human  behavior and folly.

Rockman and Ford are two of my favorite painters, and Hogin is rapidly
becoming one.  The similarities between the three artists are not so
close as to render any of them redundant.  Rather, Hogin is a welcome
addition to the table of artists using traditional painting techniques
and established conventions to address the complex and nuanced subject
matter of the world in which we live.  I have seen and enjoyed pieces
of Hogin's work at Peter Miller gallery in the past, but was not yet in
Chicago for her 2004 solo exhibition there.  I'm very eager to see an
entire exhibition of her new work at Peter Miller, hopefully within the
coming year.  Keep your ear to the ground for an announcement of her
next show; based on what I've seen, it should not be missed.

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  • New City also did a nice review on this http://art.newcity.com/2009/10/12/art-break-helping-verbs/

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