The color yellow is what you’ll notice first in these Andrew Hostick drawings. Feverishly rubbed into the mat board with a colored pencil, it seems to be the glowing, distant place from which everything else has emerged. (The soul?) The next thing you might note is the vibrancy of design. Every shape seems to be alive and dancing to a strange, erratic tune. It’s the kind of solitary, spiritual, non-mimetic art about which Kandinsky and his Blue Riders were so enthusiastic about a hundred years ago. It’s also the kind of art made by monks meditating on sacred texts in remote monasteries. Hostick is no monk, but his situation is not all that different. He makes art at Visionaries and Voices, a Cincinnati not-for-profit serving artists with disabilities. The texts he studies are art magazines or artist websites. He looks for images that interest him and then makes them his own. Isn’t that the best use to which art can be put?
Hostick transforms a severely orthogonal Peter Halley geoform painting into something that feels much more vulnerable. Halley explores the psychology of social space with designs that resemble organizational flow charts. As Hostick applies his own nervous energy, the lines are no longer straight, the areas of color are no longer solid and flat. What was once corporate policy is now the reaction of a daydreaming employee who will probably soon be fired. It may be instructive to note that while Halley has taught in or directed graduate art programs at Yale and other leading universities, Hostick has mostly worked as a check-out bagger at Kroger’s.
He transforms a disruptive Gary Komarin post-painterly abstraction into something even more so. Whereas Komarin offers the viewer a fresh and delightful experience of the world, Hostick delves into his own unique inner world. It feels less sensual, but more mental—and also more serious. Komarin is evidently trying to please and surprise. He does a very good job of it! But Hostick seems to be pursuing the truth of his own existence. One might note from his website that Komarin actively promotes and markets his work. Hostick just draws.
Both Halley and Komarin have had significant careers in the New York art world, but Hostick also works with lesser-known artists. One of my favorite Hostick paintings was based on an image found on DayDayPaint.com—a website that offers inexpensive reproductions for the lower end of the art market. Other sources include a beer advertisement and a photograph of African wildlife. His wandering eye goes everywhere, including the website of Oregon expressionist Bill Sharp. Hostick’s colored pencil variation is powerful—but I would really like to see the original Bill Sharp oil painting. Online images suggest that he is a powerfully emotive painter, though his national reputation may never be sufficient to carry his work to Chicago.
All these Hostick adaptations would suggest that not only is his own work exceptional, but so is his discerning eye for the work of others. In the world at large, he has apparently been identified as disabled. In the world of art, however, he appears adept. I wish he could stop bagging groceries and start curating contemporary art at the Cincinnati Art Museum. (Chris Miller)
Andrew Hostick “and Yellow” at Western Exhibitions, 1709 West Chicago, through August 31.