Carlson Hatton, Memory of a Rock at Patrick Painter
By Lorraine Heitzman
Through May 6th
For people who like their art simple and sedate, Carlson Hatton’s current show at Patrick Painter in Bergamot Station may not be to their taste. However, for those who are drawn towards dense compositions and mind-bending complexities just shy of total chaos, this show will reward them with a surfeit of such pleasures with plenty to process and savor.
The eight ambitious paintings that comprise Memory of a Rock all share the same intricate and bombastic language. While the meaning of this complex language cannot always be easily translated, the volume and velocity with which it is expressed is abundantly clear.
In each canvas, Carlson Hatton creates a filigree of geometric and organic shapes that cohere against black backgrounds or fields of sky blue. Playing with positive and negative imagery and all sorts of layered effects, Hatton is adept at weaving together colors and shapes into unified, complex paintings that possess the looseness and abandon of street graffiti combined with a crisp exactitude. Some works have realistic elements in the foreground isolated against a maze of abstraction, but this recognizable imagery is the exception; most figurative and objective elements are well camouflaged.
At first glance, Hatton’s seemingly random compositions obfuscate both figures and faces behind heavy veils of patterning. The two paintings paired together on the far wall of the gallery illustrate this approach. Inspired by an advertisement for cruise ware, The Gathering (left) translates a simple bourgeois ensemble into something more sinister. A pink hooded woman is immediately discernable but like looking for words in a word search puzzle, other figures eventually emerge. These mysterious apparitions are hidden behind masks or else limited to expressionless skulls, lending a haunted aspect to a painting that might otherwise be considered playful. White leaves proliferate across the painting and are echoed in Memory of a Rock, to the right. There the black silhouettes of leaves are super-imposed over a mélange of patterns and colors, effectively vignetting the image. Gestural brushstrokes dissolve into grids and grids break apart. Here too, figures emerge only after a closer look, but these appear more benign. The bottom portions of both paintings are black, broken up with white foliage and roots in stark contrast to the colorful activity above. The proportions suggest a low horizon line; possibly revealing what is below the ground.
Another compelling painting is Courtship, a horizontal work, striped with white, slightly arched vertical strokes that span the length of the piece. On top of this framework are circles and ovals of dangling fruit creating a rhythm against a black background. Disembodied hands proffer the fruit in a romantic gesture. And so it is with each painting; interwoven shapes, strokes and images interrupt grids of varying patterns, sizes, and colors. With acrylics, printing inks and paper, Hatton forces us to look beneath the decorative aspects of his paintings for deeper meanings.
The artist, who has a BFA from Cooper Union and completed his post-graduate studies in Amsterdam and the Netherlands, now is head of the Drawing department at Santa Monica College. This is his third solo show at Patrick Painter Inc. in Santa Monica.
Memory of a Rock continues at Patrick Painter Inc. through May 6, 2017
All photos by Matt Bean