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November 4-December 22, 2006 at Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Culver City

by Elenore Welles

“A Natural History of Chromophilia II,
Northeast and Central Regions,”
2005, oil on canvas, 48” x 72”.

“The Colonization of My Child’s Mind:
The Colors of 12 Hours of Advertising
on Saturday Morning TV”, 2006, oil on
panel with artist made frame, 9 1/4 x 8 1/4”

“Field Guide I” (detail), 2005,
oil on panel, 7 1/4” x 6 3/4”.

Anyone with a concern for our ecology and environment will view Laurie Hogan’s knife-edged allegories of paradise imperiled as cautionary tales. The show’s title, “The Course of Empire,” refers to Thomas Cole’s allegorical paintings depicting the progress of a society from a savage state to eventual dissolution and extinction. Through her paintings, sculptures and costumes, Hogin exposes how the exploitation of resources and the cultural complacency of our own socio-political systems heighten the process of distortion and destruction.

Studies from the Environmental Protection Agency show that the cumulative effect of many chemical substances which acculmulate in the body so as to change the biochemical viability of cells. In other words, environmental toxins are not only health risks, they can potentially alter genetics. The mutant creatures that inhabit Hogin’s paintings thus act as a mordant warning.

In “A Natural History of Chromophilia II, Northeast and Central Regions,” day-glo colored reptiles, patterned after industrial commodities are closely gathered in a fantastic landscape. By contrast, realistic white bunny rabbits, their fur finely rendered, heighten the intensity of the unnatural flora and fauna. Save for the inclusion of a skull, their arrangement and scale evoke a benign collection of toys. A series of monstrous monkey portraits vividly envision the inherent horrors of toxic effects. Their vibrant colors range from seductive fuchsias to bright yellows and greens. They seduce and horrify at the same time.

In Christian iconography, the monkey symbolizes degraded humanity. Here, ostensibly, it is humans who take on that mantle. The monkeys snarl and glare, seemingly incensed at the humans who torment them. Made all the more intense by frenzied human eyes, the animals bang on skulls to evoke an admonishing memento mori. The day-glo color palette reflects the language and colors of advertising, fashion, and consumerism.

Ecosystems of industry and commerce foster our desires and mediate our identities, with marketing mechanisms exploiting fantasies that feed the mass penchant for consumption. A title telegraphs that Hogin is surely incensed by seductive advertising aimed directly at her kids: “The Colonization of My Child’s Mind: The Colors of 12 Hours of Advertising on Saturday Morning TV.”

Another series of vividly colored paintings depict angry little song birds, also endowed with human eyes. They peer at your with the accusatory glances of the exploited.

Hogin’s paintings of beasts and birds, although warped, bear a relationship to symbolisms prevalent in Medieval and Renaissance art. As subject matter, they had multiple references, often epitomizing attitudes of society. In Neo-Platonic iconography, for instance, they could represent combat between reason and sensuality. Also visible is the influence of 17th century Dutch animal paintings. Alluding to precedents, Hogin’s art serves as a form of modern vanitas, evoking the futilities of pleasure and the certainty of death. Sardonic commentaries carry forth in sculptures such as “Patriot,” consisting of large red, white and blue fungi of cast resin. The sickly mold that seeps through walls is a not too subtle intimation of inner rot.

Among her costumes is a ceremonial military uniform adorned with gilded chicken bones that are sewn together with red silk thread. It is a wry commentary on the warrior as society’s ultimate hero.

Compelling in their revelations, her works are intended to prick the viewer’s conscience. They ask: How deep is our yen for luxury, knowing it can result in the alienation and destruction of the natural world? As implicit caveats, Hogin’s trenchant expressions transport us into a world where the implausible can and indeed does become devastatingly possible.