Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The New Artwork of Houston Artist, Jim Hatchett!

As we continue to explore the various articles in the new JRM Quarterly magazine, we are proud to highlight the artwork of Houston artist, Jim Hatchett.  A Viet Nam veteran, Hatchett holds true to a time honored approach of Abstract Expressionism.
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Photo credit: Courtesy of the Artist

Jim Hatchett

A New Generation of the Forgotten


By Gabriel Diego Delgado

---On June 10, 2016, The Huffington Post published an article by Michael S. Solomon titled, “10 Tips for Conveying Confidence - Fake It Till You Make It.”  The notion of faking it till you make it is neither new nor old, neither relevant nor injudicious.  In the art world it can quickly gyrate into a contradictory poser ridden context where some artists try climbing the academic ladder via pogo sticks.  This is complemented by Glasstire’s Christine Reese in her article, “On Elitism: A Conversation.”  She says, “Though there’s a big difference between not being able to get something out of art because you don’t understand the vernacular, versus not getting something out of it because there’s no there there.”  We have novice artists armed with credentials from prestigious institutions showing blue chip educations but creating hyperbolic banality infused with an ‘art speak’ mumbo-jumbo. The contexts of the artists’ statements and misguided purpose of intents are so convoluted with a need to be included in the Who’s Who of the (insert choice city) Art Fair that the artists’ execution becomes mundane; their physical manifestations are ill-steered down a path of irrelevancy in an unstable international art market.

In this time of Instagram artists and social media narcissists, one artist out of Houston, Texas, glides through the art world with an unassuming haphazard attitude; one that mixes a Mother Earth-majesty surfer aura, Namaste meditator with a Vietnam vet, and worldly empathetic defiance producer.

Jim Hatchett, a sixty-something Abstract Expressionist artist has been calling Texas home for most of his life. The unassuming abstract painter was the premier dirt painter during the self-proclaimed ‘decade of dirt’ in the 1980’s and 90’s.  Now, Hatchett has evolved into one of the leading Texas painters of our generation.  The level of clarity, tightness and development in his “action paintings” are juxtaposed with explosive movements; Tai Chi inspired sweeps of color and intuitive gestural marks that seem to be driven from an outer worldly phantasm of galactic divination.  Definitely not faking the expressionistic aspects of his abstract paintings, Hatchett honors his mentors like Salvatore Sarpitta and Normal Bluhm with his sincere renditions of 1950’s Ab-Ex sensibilities that are true grit and glory.  Bluhm worked from a model just like William de Kooning; Hatchett works from nature like O’Keefe.  However, unlike these household names, the Houstonian now falls outside the mainstream gallery ventures in his hometown. 

Jim Hatchett’s dream is to have a one man exhibition of new paintings at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art which would be curated by his favorite colleague, Station Museum of Contemporary Art Museum Director, James Harithas.  Other than that, the commercial aspects of making art do not appeal to him. His choice of friends in this often ‘cut throat’ business reflects an ‘old school’ respectability where there is a trusted circle of friends and that is all that matters.

“Selling…I could care less…I can exist without selling,” says Hatchett.  “I love every one of them (the paintings) they are like children to me.  I sometimes dig them out and look at all of them and think ‘Jesus, how did I do that?’  They all are magnificent masterpieces in my eyes…and that’s all I care about.”

“Everything I am looking for, I get in the making of the painting; all the joy, all the fulfillment…it comes to me when I am creating them.  Sales would be nice, but I don’t need them,” he goes on to say.

From 1968-69 Jim Hatchett served in Vinh Long, Viet Nam. “I missed the Summer of Love,” he says. “I was there (in Viet Nam).  However, both his main mentors are also vets; Norman Bluhm and Salvatore Scarpitta both served in WWII.  But, Hatchett does not use the art as therapy for PTSD as some returning veterans have.

“In 1978, I was at U of H (University of Houston) and Salvatore Scarpitta was brought in for an art and teaching residency for one year.  Us students were able to paint alongside him for this big mural that I think last time I heard was in storage at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, but I imagine it still belongs to U of H.  Sal would have us mix up these paints and say, dab it here, spread it here, drip it here. We were excited to do that,” Hatchett said.

Over the next ten years Hatchett would go on to gain regional attention in the 80’s with exhibitions at some well-known galleries in Houston.  However, leading into the 90’s he began to limit his color palette and change from traditional painting mediums to dirt, sand, rocks, and sticks (Mother Nature).  Always an avid outdoorsman, Hatchett would make a yearly pilgrimage to Big Bend National Park. This was his psychologically cleansing journey to purify himself.  He became more and more inspired by the world, by this mystical place.  Inevitably, his art began to reflect the supernatural elements of Big Bend.  Hatchett began creating oversized “paintings” that were reflective of Tibetan sand mandala paintings.  The meditative tapping and sifting of sand onto panels created an energy that Hatchett could not capture in his previous work.  His solo exhibition at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art in 2003 titled, “A DECADE OF DIRT” showcased ten years of this series.  In the exhibition catalog, museum curator Tex Kerschen writes: “These paintings do more than invoke transcendent states…they are as bound to ecology as they are to aesthetics.”

“The Station showed ten years of that work, but I really explored it for twelve,” he says.  “I felt like when the show came down, it was the end of the run for that series...I was bound to greys and browns for 12 years.  I was ready to explode into color and really paint!”

After leaving his job within the museum administration at the Art Car Museum, a folk art institution in Houston dedicated to the urban phenomenon of Art Cars, Hatchett started a new journey.
“Not working a 40 hour work week was a big shock to me. I did not know what to do with myself…I was lost, or in mild shock…, so I started painting and have not stopped. I paint from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. This last year I bet I have painted 200 paintings,” he says.

In talking about his new Ab-Ex work, Hatchett says he has known, friended, and painted alongside the “real deal.”  He knows what goes into making traditional Abstract Expressionistic work, and it shows.

“There is only one way to do it,” he says.  “Fast.  You can’t nit-pick, you can’t slow down, you can’t think about it.  It’s pure joy, its pure ecstasy; my paintings are the residue of that joy.  I think I intuitively respond to the paintings on an unconscious level…whether I am channeling some universal energy or some other thing, I don’t know.  I lose track of time when I am in the zone creating.  I skip meals and soon its hours later than when I started.  Three hours feels like 10 minutes.”

One of the new paintings from 2016 titled “Flashing the Plasma,” a 40” x 32” acrylic on illustration board, is a wonderful example of Hatchett’s ‘explosive’ energy as he delivers a lyrical composition with sweeps, scraps, drips, dabs, rubs and wisps that resonate with a seductively robust energy; a visual two-dimensional concubine that wants to engulf the viewer in a whirlwind of cosmic thrusts.

“Shed Luster,” a 40” x 32” acrylic on illustration board, is a complex and multifarious arrangement of color bands scraped down to minimal pigments that deliver evidence of some violent and swift attack, stealing the impasto off the painting.  In the process of scraping the paint away, Hatchett pushes the remainder of that color into the layer below.  Reds mingle with blues in a forced and arranged marriage kind of way.  We sense cohesion of the underneath resisting the traumatic suppression of the artist. Hatchett leaves pockets or windows to the unaltered deposits below.  We see the strata of color as celestial bursts.  Hatchett shows us artist-driven violence juxtaposed with a heavenly aura brooding and simmering like a NASA-esque image of nebulae. 

Jim Hatchett’s paintings are pure and unaltered interstellar energy put down on canvas, paper and board; light years beyond the fakers and makers. 
 
 
 
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