Mier Gallery, Los Angeles 2016
Chris Hood: Octopi Blush
May 22 – July 2, 2016
In popular culture, octopi are known for their mystique, their psychic abilities to predict the World Cup, their abilities to escape imprisonment from behind aquarium glass where children and adults gawk at their seemingly-magical camouflaging abilities. The swirling color shifts of the octopi in changing environments is more than camouflage, it is closer to a form of telepathic communication where the emotions, fears, and agitations flush to the surface of the skin. Known as being the most intelligent invertebrate, octopi possess innately human characteristics of empathy and memory. With the ability to recognize themselves in mirrors, change color according to their moods, and engage in play, these animals become undeniably human and, much like a work of art, their exterior bodies become visual representations of a mysterious inner world (Haddon).
Such anthropomorphism carries into the paintings of Chris Hood. Like the skin of an octopus, emerging from behind – the invisible seeps out from behind the canvas, becoming visible. Hood views his own work in a similar way: as a kind of passage from the interior to the exterior. In a conceptual sense, this is a space where the viewer reconciles themselves with an ever increasingly simulated experience. Perhaps most importantly, these are paintings in which the formal elements and the surface itself play out perceptually for the viewer. Colors that are dark and rich from the back seep through the canvas to reveal faded compositions from the front. The paintings are full of chaotic colors that come together in a psychedelic blend of brushstrokes and figurative motifs. Hood employs cartoon elements that are not specific, but more like the Jungian archetype equivalents of childhood cartoons and comic characters. The cartoons act as tools that relay emotion, create narrative, and create personality in order to maintain a distinct “connection to cultural vernacular” (Hood).
Hood’s imagery plays directly with the surface more than previous works: knives and swords create trompe l’oeil rips on the canvas and cartoon hands emerge out of nowhere holding out selfie sticks and trumpets. In contrast to collage where distinct juxtapositions disrupt the visual field, Hood aims to describe an experience where all things fuse and sit in a third, liminal space. Subsumed, stained, and bound by the surface of the painting, he often uses vernacular sources and humor to point to the tension in this uneasy experience. The interplay between characters amongst the layers of paint also activates a third type of response in the sometimes surreal, or psychedelic, painterly joining of imagery and color. In an enigmatic blend between clear figuration and muddied abstraction, Hood creates a world within his set physical and material limitations.