Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A storm surge of paint

Yale Center for British Art
1080 Chapel St., New Haven, (203) 432-2800
Howard Hodgkin: Paintings 1992—2007
Feb. 1—Apr. 1, 2007

The first thing I notice in the Howard Hodgkin show at the Yale Center for British Art is that the normal image area is not enough to contain Hodgkin's desire to apply paint. These lush works extend outward, overwhelming the frames, annexing the frames into the compositions.

Like a musicians with a signature bag of riffs and licks, Hodgkin approaches the wood—because these are all works on wood, not canvas—with a palette of personal painterly strategies. Predominant is the thick, slashing arc. You can see this in "Spring Rain," "First Light," "Autumn Foliage," "Falling Down" and more.

Then there is a sort of stippling effect writ large, as though he had taken big cotton balls of paint and patted them on the surface. For examples, check out "Clarendon Road," "Flowerpiece," along the frame of "Moonlight" and in select areas of "Torso." In "A Visit to Paul and Bernard," this stippling imagery becomes elongated as if the same effect was caught in a photographic blur. A hail of color like Impressionism on steroids.

In the huge "Autumn," background slaps of black, green, red and blue are the setting for a flurry of orange and brown dabs of paint, leaves from the trees.

Most of these paintings are bold and loud, calling attention to themselves. But there are quieter works, too. "Walking on Water," a smaller painting, uses white paint along the frame to contain a soft mustard yellow at the bottom and a rusty red sky. The raw texture of the wood in this painting flavors the image.

For "Mud," Hodgkin actually lets the weathered natural face of his wood show through unadorned, rather than slathering it with paint. He does enclose it within a rectangle of dark olive green. More than many of the other works, this is almost recognizably a landscape. It is completed with a land mass of black.

But these paintings are the exception. More typical are the works with dayglo orange or almost impenetrable blues or luminous greens. In the beautiful "Old Books," the frame is lit with orange. Almost glowing, it sweetly highlights the fluid horizontal bands of blue-green, grays and black in the textures of the brushstrokes. I can see the well-thumbed pages of the books, telling a rich and layered story in the gestural intricacies of the painted line.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hasn't Robert Ryman done something similar - letting his paint cross over onto the frame?

10:22 AM

Blogger Hank Hoffman said...

I was unfamiliar with Ryman but I see that he has. My point wasn't that this is unique to Hodgkin so much as that it is a defining characteristic.

11:09 AM


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