Dennis Cooper on Andrew Hahn. (First Take)

Artforum International, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Dennis Cooper on Andrew Hahn. (First Take)


ANDREW HAHN PAINTS UNSOLVABLE MYSTERIES. HE creates them with the same meticulous objectivity that detectives employ to solve a crime. In Hahn's case, the evidence isn't a dead body or discarded bullet casings but rather the images popular culture generates to represent the horrific. His astonishingly skillful paintings of visual tropes used by television and movies to elicit the frisson of actual crime scenes are strange double takes on the visceral and discomfiting. They suggest frightening occurrences that have been romanticized in the name of entertainment and then revised back into images of pure uncertainty. Hahn calls them paranoid paintings, meaning that their potency lies in their untrustworthiness. For while he goes to extraordinary lengths to mimic the video grabs from news shows and "reality"-based TV programs like Dateline NBC and The New Detectives that form his source material, his interest in evoking the psychological threat that his models were designed to sweeten and negate leaves the veraci ty of these canvases' intense moodiness highly suspect and their success more than a little unnerving.

Hahn is best known in the SoCal art scene for his oil paintings based on found images (appropriated from TV advertisements) of eerily dark rural scenes, which have been seen in one solo show and a couple of group exhibitions at the Los Angeles gallery Roberts & Tilton. At once Richteresque in technique and Sunday painter-like in their underwhelming, no-nonsense look, his canvases' inability to coexist with the savvier work of other local painters has caused something of a fuss, with critics and artists both praising and attacking them as creepy simpletons in elegant disguise. His latest series, titled "Stalker," 2002, continues this unconventional study of the spooky cliche while cutting radically to the chase. These almost photorealist watercolor paintings are based on video stills and JPEGS of murder victims and their blood-soaked surroundings. Hahn's interest in investing real intrigue into quasi-mysterious sources remains in play, but in this newest work the question as to whether his subjects are actors or actual corpses is left unanswered. …

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