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Review: Hurry to catch Michael Hoffman

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 18, 2013: The Hoffman Lachance Contemporary Art Gallery in Maplewood has dedicated one week to showcase gallery director Michael Hoffman’s thick, rich paintings on wood panels. Hoffman’s secret paint concoction creates luminous swirls in high relief like wet rocks that never dry to lose luster.

Hoffman’s titles are often taken from places where he lived or visited throughout his storied youth. He spent his young adult years traveling through Spain and the south of France as a member of a punk circus group. He attributes the inspirational source for his paintings that look like a vinyl record going round to a childhood friendship with his New York neighbor Charles Mingus Jr. Mingus was an influential jazz musician known for fusing traditional and experimental musical forms. The same could be said of Hoffman’s paintings.

An example of Hoffman’s melding of traditional and experimental forms can be found in the series of three landscapes in this exhibit. Each landscape is painted with a low horizon line and exudes its own individual temperature. Roserio Strait sizzles in hot, red tones. Doe Bay’s cool greens are broken by a line of white heat. Penn Cove’s blue sky and deep green sea is shown at sunset. Crackles and swirls of paint under the glossy surface become sand, sky and water.

Blue Moon incorporates Hoffman’s signature spinning record motif on top of one of his landscapes, creating a combination of techniques that ultimately challenges interpretation. Each round spinning painting is centered with a blue circle, like a puddle of water or the bright day sky seen through a James Turrell light chapel oculus.

Hoffman’s paintings are each works of sensual deliciousness. Their intensely tactile nature makes them seductive objects. The dazzling luminescence of each lush stripe of color in his ribbon candy-like Playa Ibiza make this the most lickable looking painting you will ever see.

Two of the paintings on view offer cerebral geometric patterns that Hoffman relates to his admiration for the gridded wire found in midcentury modern chairs such as those designed by Charles and Ray Eames. Blue gridded Nite Swimming reflects light so that it glimmers like a swimming pool under a gleaming moon. Summer Seville is painted in various marbled sand tones. These inverted or collapsed dimension designs recall the work of Buckminster Fuller.

Hoffman’s paintings are not uniform, but they are perfect, complete wholes. He enjoys the minute inconsistencies that are inevitable in his work. The paintings need to be seen in person. Photographs of his paintings are misleading, as they flatten the sumptuous, glimmering details to portray simple, bold graphic designs.