Fire on the Walls the Work of Alexandre Hogue

By Mora, Patricia | Humanities, July/August 2011 | Go to article overview

Fire on the Walls the Work of Alexandre Hogue


Mora, Patricia, Humanities


TEXAS THAT WHICH IS TRULY NEW SOMETIMES COMES IN the guise of thé usual. If one doubts this premise, all that's needed is a look at Alexandre Hogue's landscapes, on view through August 20 at the Grace Museum in Abilene with support of Humanities Texas. Hogue's works aren't mere replicas of terrain. Rather, they reveal the mysterious delight that limns the interstices of hills, canyons, and rural structures. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson, whose first and primary church pew was Nature, Hogue didn't seek to cut the transcendent from its literal "ground."

Hogue is typically thought to be a "Düst Bowl painter" or part of a movement iBalled "The Dallas Nine," a loosely knit group of painters, printmakers, and sculptors active in the thirties and forties. Yet he ardently rejected both labels. He refused affiliations with any group and defiantly fought against nomenclature. While some historians continue to group him with artists with whom he felt no kinship, his biographers are beginning to demand that Hogue's legacy be recognized in a more accurate light. He adamantly stated that he was not an artist of a particular region or era. He was furious when Life magazine referred to him in 1937 as a "painter of the Dust Bowl." He took similar exception to comparisons to regionalist painters Grant Wood or Thomas Hart Benton as well as the frequently cited "Dallas Nine."

Born near the close of the nineteenth century, Hogue enjoyed a long and prolific career that spanned seven decades. Astonishingly, Hogue was almost completely self-taught. He took a correspondence course in commercial design at age sixteen before graduating from high school in Dallas. He worked steadily from the 1920s until his death in 1994, and his body of work includes portraits, landscapes, and abstract pieces influenced by Persian calligraphy But it is his landscapes that he is best known for, exploring areas such as Denton, Glen Rose, Big Bend, and, of course, his native Dallas as well as places in arid around Taos, New Mexico.

The Crucified Land, painted in 1939, depicts the red soil south of Denton and indicates Hogue's early impulse toward conservationism. He painted scenes illustrating the ravages of the Dust Bowl, but he also understood that water erosión posed an equally great threat. This work captures over-plowed furrows in fiery orange and vivid green. It's moored by an image of a tilted scarecrow reminiscent of the Biblical Golgotha, the archetypal place of sacrifice and stony ground. A river bisects the terrain, and it seems more arterial thread than plain water. …

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