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ART REVIEWS : Something Rich and Strange:

Wade Hoefer’s landscapes are sublimely placid. Nothing of great import goes on in these large oil on wood paintings--trees cluster, hills roll, water meanders. Yet that nothing is saturated in and by the most extraordinary conflation of light, color and space.

Nature here, in the best Romantic tradition, is Hoefer’s own--hazy but intensely luminous, uninhabited but strangely familiar. Viewed through the gold-tinted lens of the setting sun and the thick air rising from the marshy banks, the landscape emerges as a near-abstraction, one softly modulated form abutting another.

“Fluvii” depicts a trio of horizontal bands--water, mountains and sky--overlaid by three dark clouds of foliage. Silent and motionless, the tableau is wrenched into a higher key by the last ray of the dying sun, which slices across the water and shreds the sky into tiny pieces of white heat.

Yet for Hoefer, all this is not enough--or more accurately, it is somehow, embarrassingly, too much. In order to render ironic the beauty he has so painstakingly evoked, he places his paintings at the center of massive concrete frames, or pairs them with concrete blocks as large as the images themselves. Thus, Hoefer attempts to distance himself from the Romantic sensibility that has enshrined both nature and art.

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The strategy is effective only in a piece as explicit as “Altaria,” in which the painted image rests on a concrete shelf which is itself propped up by two small columns--a makeshift house of worship. But in the bulk of Hoefer’s work, the tempering of landscape paintings with ordinary blocks of cement reads as a faint-hearted, unhappy compromise. One regrets Hoefer’s compulsion to solicit “correctness” at the cost of his exquisite images; hopefully, this compulsion will soon play itself out. Asher/Faure Gallery, 612 N. Almont Drive, (213) 271-3665, through Oct. 5. Closed Sundays and Mondays.


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