GLENN HIRSCH MIXED MEDIA PAINTINGS

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East Bay Express


BIOMORPHIC BLENDS THE REAL AND THE SURREAL
by Josef Woodard, Los Angeles Times

On first impression, San Francisco painter Glenn Hirsch's work, now at Ventura College, seems innocent enough. Machine-like shapes, ambiguous biomorphic images and alien life forms interact on strange landscapes in a kind of playful mode of surrealism, or, as he says in his artist's statement, a kind of psychedelic art.

But there is turbulence rumbling and a mashing-together of both imagery and media. With such dream-laden works as 'Dark Carnival,' 'Indignant Pirouette,' and 'What Really Happened at Waterloo,' he mixes oil, acrylic, watercolor and the 3-D effects of layering paper. Forms and archetypes swim across the pictures, fuzzy of focus, and a carefully rendered, unsettled feeling hovers over the art.

Hirsch's world, as represented by these paintings, is analogous to both dream states and to cyberspace. It's a place where things are real and yet never real, perfectly logical and yet intangible and subject to chaotic occurrences at any moment.

In the New Media gallery, prints from the college's permanent collection make for a good companion for the Hirsch exhibition, between Goya's tragicomic etchings, Dali's pre-digital 'Dalivision,' and Chagall's spare fantasies.



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CRITIC'S CHOICE: GLENN HIRSCH
by Harry Roche, SF Bay Guardian

With titles like Rite of Spring. Spy in the House of Love, and Daughters of Polymorphous, it's ironic that Glenn Hirsch says his visionary paintings aren't intended as literary narratives. What's more, his Biomorphic Fantasies spring from a surprisingly successful cross-fertilization of romanticism, symbolism, and surrealism -- movements that were intimately intertwined with the literature of their day.

Against translucent backdrops of magic mountains and sparkling seas, Hirsch's lush fantasyscapes bristle with bizarre life forms that you won't find classified anywhere. While his profusion of plant life harks back to romantic landscapes by Samuel Palmer and Philip Otto Runge, his glowing jewel-like colors owe a lot to Odilon Redon's symbolist dreamscapes, and his biomorphic brood recalls the surreal jellyfish of Gorky and Matta. What could easily have become a muddy mishmash has coalesced into a highly personal vision that's simply out of this world.


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GLENN HIRSCH AT MACE GALLERY
by Mark Van Proyen, Artweek Magazine

The notion of the picture plane means different things to different people, but rarely does one encounter such distinct pictorial syntaxes as surface, window, and semiological field -- operating simultaneously in a single visual image. It is just this kind of simultaneity that remains so consistently striking in more than twenty works on paper by Glenn Hirsch, each one a highly complex rejoinder to the question that asks who says you can't have it all?

Having it all points to the way Hirsch employs a variety of media as well as a multiplicity of pictorial syntax. In any given work, there is a build-up that begins with watercolor over pencil, and is followed by layers of pastel and charcoal as well as acrylic and oil-based pigment. In this way, Hirsch generates apparition-like images that announce themselves slowly to the viewer's gaze, occupying a thin territory that oscillates between the obscure and the distinct. But once they come into focus, these apparitions turn out to be a familiar cast of surrealistically inspired characters (toothed vaginas, serpentine penises and an array of menacing and ominous plant forms), all gone to an unruly seed in a seemingly untended garden of sublime sublimation.

Actually, this garden only seems untended. Even closer inspection reveals much conscious decision-making about underlying structure and dramatic staging -- but this kind of artifice is well hidden by the work's allusions to subconsciously inspired myth-worlds. The most compelling thing about these works, however, is neither their psychologically loaded imagery (which owes too much to art-historical sources to carry a full load of metaphorical weight), nor their inventive formal construction. The most interesting aspect of these works is the way that their actual surfaces say so much about he excitatory vitalism of the skin, running a gamut from the thin and diaphanous to the ruggedly scarred. It is amid this kind of pictorial tissue that we see the familiar retinue of surreal actors recast as the codified inscriptions of past trauma and desire. Thus, the act of looking at Hirsch's work becomes an act of psychosomatic archeology as the eye seeks to uncover the libidinous memories behind the multifarious veil of tactility.

For all of their visceral imagery and visual density, these works don't come off as being heavy in either a visual or psychological sense. Instead, they achieve a rare kind of uncanniness born of formulating tactility as a signifying system that stands metaphorically equal to those omens that we call images.

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