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August 4 - 27, 2005 at Peter Blake Gallery, Orange County

by Roberta Carasso

Some art is magic. The more you look, the more you want to look. And with each gaze the art not only gets better, it becomes enchanting. You get lost in the work, finding unexpected details, and are amazed how the whole is more than the parts. Such is the art of Dennis Hare, an artist whose work is difficult to categorize but wonderful to experience. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say that Hare creates abstract/figurative assemblages--painted surfaces built up with discarded objects that converge into formidable images.

There are several factors that contribute to the appeal of Hare’s work. First, he creates between the crack of two- and three-dimensionality. Each painting is an interplay of shape, space, height, width and depth--painting with a sculptural application. Although a canvas hangs on a wall, Hare sculpts the painting. He constructs lush and varied under and upper surfaces, to present what is hidden and what is seen. Ultimately, the two become one, forming the bones, muscle, and skin of the art. The undersurface may peek out or dive down below, or a tip of an object may appear from below out of nowhere. Consequently, the individual energy that each object evokes is transformed into powerful shapes, colors, and composition.

Hare is at his best when working on a large canvas, so large that he has a rubber runway 20 feet long that allows him to move out away from the work each time he adds something to the image, then back again to re-calibrate the visual and emotive effect. He piles anything and everything onto the canvas as, for him, everything is potentially art. The artist moves forward and backwards to view the work. This explains why his art is best seen from a distance, when all the parts merge into one image. The process highlights another quality of Hare’s work. Some assemblage artists use a variety of materials, and by inclusion the object becomes personal. In Hare’s case, he first makes the object personal and then places it on the canvas. This shift represents a major difference in outcome. The imbued meaning of each object is favored over formal harmonics.

“Untitled,” 2005, mixed media.

““Untitled,” 2005, mixed media.

“Untitled,” 2005, mixed media.

“Untitled,” 2005, mixed media.

Hare builds up surface, and surface is everything to his art. While intuitively developing the surface, he somehow maintains a sense of a two-dimensional image using three-dimensional materials. Planes recede and advance, bulge out in some areas and collapse in others. Adding color becomes a means to enhance the illusion of space, as a dab of yellow moves around a protruding object, accenting its heft. Yet there is still another feature to consider. Hare is expert in the use of dark hues, giving his abstract or figurative image a sense of shadow and depth. This ability enhances even further the three-dimensional aspects of the painting.

Although Hare is forever drawing, when he approaches a canvas it is a spontaneous effort. The final work is honest and real; the artist’s efforts are believable and true. There are no gimmicks, effects, or viewer manipulation. A license plate above a man facing a woman is as real as the people. Parallel patterns of rectangular shapes formed from wires, canvas, and industrial supplies turn into a loaded arrangement of earth tones. A crack in a piece of wood becomes a sensitive line drawing. In his strenuous process, which engages him artistically, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, Hare produces art that is magic.