Review of Monroe Hodder
by Caroline Compston, former curator, Tate Museums
‘She's got everything she needs: she's an artist; she don't look back'- Bob Dylan, 1965
Be seduced by Monroe Hodder's chromatic sensations, but don't be fooled by them. Her career spans a number of chapters in the history of American art. Inspired by a vast web of experiences, her work is charged these days with the urban intensity and stimulation of life in London, together with the peace and solitude of a studio in Colorado.
Rothko said that a picture "lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer". I find Monroe's paintings have a power to engage with us. Her work encapsulates a reconciliation of opposites: a balance between the spiritual and the sensual, the structural and the painterly, discipline and passion. Her most powerful language is colour. Tangerine, puce and crimson jostle together; turquoise, ultramarine and yellow form striking layers. Drips of colour disturb the geometry. Supposedly difficult colours work together to form stimulating and surprising harmonies. Monroe says "My impulse is to fill up an abstract repetitive structure with the delicious disorder of paint. My work is a child of minimalism but the rules are bent and the grid has gone awry. I paint in large, messy stripes that wobble around and go out of bounds. My interest is in the ways I can use colour inside and across bands. I like to confound myself with infinite possibilities, choosing a colour such as blue and running other hues over, under and right through it." Geometric structure is a necessary starting point for Monroe,
After studying at Vasser, Monroe Hodder worked at the San Francisco Art Institute and the Arts Students' League in New York. She taught painting at various schools in San Francisco. Her experience of working as assistant to the Mexican artist, Manuel Neri, at the San Francisco Art Institute brought her into contact with Clifford Still and Mark Rothko. Through her involvement with Neri came an affiliation with the Bay Area Figurative School in California, including such artists as Richard Diebenkorn and Elma Bischoff. Monroe and her husband Fred have lived in San Francisco for twenty years, and have travelled a great deal.
Monroe seldom paints without listening to music. Her passions range from Bach to the Blues and she cites Carl Jenkins and Jobi Talbot as inspirations. There are harmonic elements to her work which witness to her musical sensitivity.
These beautiful, abstract works arise directly from personal experience. The layers of paint release the geometry from the prosaic and the intellectual into an explosion of colour. Look carefully at these glorious, seductive, luminous paintings.
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