Project Room- Bill Hochhausen: Frame of Mind
“FRAME OF MIND” an exhibition of paintings by Bill Hochhausen, who for many years exhibited sculpture in New York, will be at the Painting Center April 24 - May19. This new work offers an array of contradictory optical choices; landscape painting, magnifications of details from the original painting, a high chroma (shaped) framing ‘context’ that holds all the parts in optical suspension.
A kind of hyper figure/ground.
Each work is comprised of several sections, every section painted differently: The landscapes, oil on wood panels, have most recently been views completed at an orchard in New City, N.Y. and serve as the basis of a more involved composition. Details from the landscape are magnified in the, now ordinary, manner of our examination of paintings in enlargements in publications and lectures. This ’second view’ sees the painting in itself -a concoction of color daubs- and the detail as an ‘interesting’ or ‘typical’ or ‘formal’ choice; one imagines the viewer wondering “Why that detail?”. A longer perusal might have the viewer questioning the accuracy of the ‘copy’, imagining a different section that might have been enlarged. The viewer may see the original detail in one panel and its magnified section in another panel to be connected, as if by lines of diminishing-size-perspective. There’s a transgression here; since parts in each panel ( a composition and space complete in itself) can be seen to cross the boundary (picture-plane) of its borders.
While Hochhausen uses traditional painterly methods to tighten the ’skin’ of each rectangular panel to emphasize it’s singularity, a sub-optical structure connects between the forms and is then pushed into greater tension by an outlandish (outside of and unrelated to landscape, strange, not a ‘landsman’) system of surrounding forms. The Phenomenological basis of this method unlike that of Cubism or other multi-image jams forges connections, and therefore ambiguity, across and between self contained unities.
The picture-plane, fetish-like in its intensity in modernist painting and theory, came into being when the coherent space of a Renaissance painting was, as a convenient metaphor, compared to a window through which an unbroken reality might be seen. A mitered frame held a, usually rectangular, painting and somewhat like constructed window framing launched the illusion of a deep recessive space and acted as a context mediating between the depicted illusion and the real space and objects of the room. Frames set the scene and began the action with decorative vitality and gold leaf in the manner of furniture and architectural style. It must have elicited then a comment that we, alas, have all heard “You know, that frame really makes the painting.”
When ‘picture-plane’ finally dominated framing changed radically; a discreet, thin line floats to surround a DeKooning or Gorky, it’s still gold, but at least it respects the assertion of flatness. Mondrian and Thomas Eakins made frames unique to particular works; Paul Klee and Seurat painted framing borders integral to individual compositions. This Polonius-like attendant form once had a muscular and vibrant role. In proto-Renaissance painting, before rationalized perspective smoothed everything out, Cimabue, Giovanni di Paolo, Simone Martini, Giotto and Anno Nimus constructed veritable palaces of space, tense with the contradictions of scale, image, structure and illusion. The architectural context (ambiguous to the modern eye) filtered into painted as well as constructed framing, like a stage with many parts there was action everywhere.
At The Painting Center, Hochhausen’s work comes together in outlandish boundaries of raw, Acrylic color and texture. The framing surround, a plastic context, pulls and pushes into the nicely ordered contradictions described above. The action of optical and physical connections shift at every glance, it is an amplification of a basic and well-developed neural mechanism that enables the brain to give more than one interpretation to the same phenomenon.