First Contact


Jocelyn Hobbie's new paintings are hanging at Fredericks and Freiser Gallery at 536 West 24th Street in New York, open every day, apart from Sunday and Monday, from 10am until 6pm. She appears to be harking back to an earlier time when the artist's job was to praise youth and beauty and the skill of the other craftspeople of the day. Like Franz Winterhalter who painted the court of Queen Victoria and exalted Charles Worth the father of haute couture. The dressmaker, the fabric designer, the dyer, the hair cutter. And the painters themselves, who can cause a frisson by rendering a little application of lipstick on the lips of a lovely, just formed woman. 

In "Fair Isle and Geraniums" the geraniums are understood in a highly plastic way. They remind me of the flowers of the '70s rock album illustrator, Alan Aldridge, who amped up Nature in his book The Butterfly Ball so that dimensionality and depth of pigment trumped light and shadow. In a Jocelyn Hobbie painting everything is made out of a material that you would never mistake for a photograph. On a surface that is very far from a backlit phone. This is not a reproduction. The medium is the message.

 Warhol created "The Manufactured Painting" where the individual subsumes themselves so that the work can be about  mechanical reproduction. The idea is that "the studio" becomes a fantasy about "the factory."

The influence of this concept has become so prevalent that the disappearance of touch has become desirable in some modern work. Jeff Koons has most famously employed his assistants to paint his paintings with the directive to not allow a brush mark to be seen. To act like photograph reproducers.

Hobbie's pieces remind me of Kehinde Wiley's most famous paintings. Portraits where the skin is highly modeled and the clothes and backgrounds are more flat, referencing decorative surfaces. But Hobbie is hypersensitive to color where Wiley's choices can at times look approximate, as if they were chosen from a color chart. And his skin surfaces can look artificial where hers emanate light. It's inevitable when a portrait is made by a studio in China, full of workers, rather than by a single artist. But Wiley deliberately sacrifices touch for effect. He's making hip hop court paintings! The conceit that it is the work of a great studio is in keeping with its ambitions 

Hobbie is keeping it small, intimate. You are here in the gallery with "the thing." There's a dialogue, however unequal, between you and it. This is because there is the presence of another person in the room.

"Ikat Bouquet" is backed up by a deeply plumbed aqua blue, as you can see. If this is a glorified fashion "shoot," the model is appropriately detached. The rendering of the face abandons anatomy for effect. The cheek bone shading goes on forever. Hobbie points out visual aspects without conceptualizing them. Painting is a phenomenological project.

Perhaps what's been forgotten is that when a painting is not the hand of a single auteur something about the work dies.

This is because the onlooker seeks contact with the maker. Without that there is no dialogue.

"It's always based on the two poles, the onlooker and the maker, and the spark that comes from the bipolar action gives birth to something-like electricity." Marcel Duchamp

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