At Koplin Del Rio, all is not right with the world. Laurie Hogin’s paintings and drawings of mutated natural landscapes and animals are currently filling the gallery with a cacophony of colors in “Action at a Distance.” The exhibition features a generous array of the artist’s new works, continuing the theme that has occupied her for the last 20 years: our hyper-consumerist contemporary culture and its many negative ramifications. The exhibition’s title comes from a phenomenon, both curious and common, described by physics. “Action at a distance” refers to the influence of objects and forces, like gravity or electromagnetism, on distant, independent entities. In Hogin’s dystopian painted universe, we, along with plants, animals, and the environment itself, are the independent entities, grossly affected by the industrial, pharmacological, political, and economical forces we ourselves have unleashed.
The artist’s compelling painting, Habitat Diorama Illustrating the Effects of Substances in the Environment (2012), exemplifies how these forces manifest. A menagerie of luridly painted birds with hallucinogenic feathers, a menacing-looking bunny, and a hot-pink lizard crowd the picture plane. Their colors, as Hogin explains, are those “of our globalized economy, from the Day-glo hues of big-box store commodities to the pixilated palettes of television and the internet, as well as the colors of nationalist identity and political affiliation.” These animals are all in various disturbed or drugged-out states: the two birds in the foreground hiss at each other with open beaks, ringed by others who stare glassily into the distance; the bunny seems to eye us suspiciously; and the neon-electric lizard sits by, mechanically.
Pills and other mind-bending edibles sprout out of the brown trees and ground, while thin columns of smoke rise up from the orange-glowing landscape beyond this strange foreground scene. There are no simple fixes for this degree of degradation, but as an escape from the unhealthy state of our world, Hogin presents viewers with the so-called “substances” littering her painted environment--products of the very culture for which we desperately need a cure.