Culture Report: John Brinton Hogan Plays With Permanence
Photographer and mixed media artist John Brinton Hogan works out of two small studios perched atop El Cajon Boulevard. It’s one of the hottest days of the season when I visit, and he’s framing the work that he’ll show at Mesa College Art Gallery this week.
“There’s a trend right now among artists in contemporary art to make work that is ephemeral, and that’s tempting,” he said. “To make art that breaks down, that through chemical processes, the work actually either degrades or destroys itself. And I can’t step over that line at this point — I mean, I worked in a museum. I’m stressed about the fucking temperature in here.”
Hogan prepared Japanese-style hinges, using archival-grade wheat paste and small strips of Japanese paper to secure prints to matting and frames. The point is that the mounting process is reversible, and that means the work can last forever. “If the work ever needs to be unframed and completely taken apart, a conservator could reverse what I’m doing here.”
It’s a sentiment that is somewhat at odds with what is in his work. Hogan’s forthcoming exhibition, called “Brightest Beacons, Blindest Eyes,” involves landscape photography with a distorted, embellished human component.
“It’s a particularly anxious time for us as a species, with seemingly nothing but bad news,” he said. “But everyone seems so frozen and unable to move or do anything collectively to stave off the apocalyptic things that sound like they’re headed our way.”
Hogan’s process to create these works was specific and repetitive. He took a photograph and digitally processed it, distorting it with a repetitive series of steps in Photoshop until the colors and individual pixels seemed unnatural (and satisfied his mild synesthesia), and then, on a massive print, he painted over the humans or human objects with bright, glittery paint. It’s a striking expression of the irreversibility of the human touch on the planet.
It’s also a bit alien.
His work was influenced by the fear and anxiety of childhood, specifically things that provoke it. To him, that was the “War of the Worlds” film. “The moment when the Martian laser beam comes out of the ship and freezes the human beings in the scene, the obliteration, the disappearing of the human form. Just before it disappeared, it glowed brightly,” Hogan said.
He photographed people interacting purposefully with the landscape: friends hiking or a volunteer team removing invasive plants. And by adorning them with paint, he’s not just making something beautiful, he’s calling attention to the way humans use nature as well as the subjective influence of the artist.
With the digitization of photography, Hogan wanted to maintain an artist’s touch on his work. “I wanted to extremely put my hand in it,” he said. His process is as precise as producing or editing a piece of music, but also as random as any flawed, human practice. In Hogan’s case, a mild synesthesia often dictates where the colors end up. But he admits that the way he determines if a piece is finished sometimes comes down to dinnertime. “You reach a point of maybe exhaustion or hunger,” he said, “Or maybe there’s a sense of satisfaction, like, yeah, I’ll stop there.”
With a checkered past of barely making it out of high school, the native San Diegan delved into skateboarding photography and rock music. It wasn’t until well into adulthood that Hogan focused on his art in a sustaining way. “I make the work because I feel it’s necessary for my life,” he said, and that if other people gain anything from it, that’s a bonus. “This is an exercise to keep me sane,” he said.
This is Hogan’s first local solo show. An opening reception for “Brightest Beacons, Blindest Eyes” is Thursday evening at Mesa College Gallery. The exhibition runs through Oct. 17.
So. Much. Photography. (And More Arts and Culture News)
- MOPA’s annual juried youth photography show opens this weekend, and the theme is “Dreamscapes.” Previews of this show look phenomenal.
- Noted midcentury and post-War architectural photographer Julius Shulman’s work will be on display at the (free) Central Library Art Gallery beginning Saturday.
- On photographing the “rage, spit, viscera and hope” of San Diego’s extreme music scene with Becky DiGiglio. (CityBeat)
- On Tuesday, the Balboa Art Conservation Center announced that Executive Director Janet Ruggles will retire at the end of the year after 37 years with the institution. It also revealed a significant Andrew Mellon Foundation grant for upgrades and the new executive search.
Film and Literature
- Putting Tegan and Sara in the “film and literature” section gives me a nerdy thrill. The iconic duo will read at The Book Catapult on the 30th (before their show at the Balboa Theater).
- The GI Film Festival starts today with an opening night screening at MOPA and runs through Sunday across town. Behold this Rancho Bernardo resident’s perspective on being up against “Malcolm in the Middle’s” Frankie Muniz for best actor: “But I expect Frankie will win.” (U-T)
- Did you know that the San Diego Public Library staff write mini book reviews every other Sunday? They compiled some of their picks on the library website. (U-T)
- The SDSU Chamber Orchestra and Choir will perform at Bread & Salt on Sunday, with violinist Pei-Chun Tsai and — this got my attention — marimba soloist Michael Brown. I’m emerging from my YouTube marimba rabbit hole to report that I’m 100 percent ready for its stardom.
- Also on Sunday, The Casbah hosts a Grrrl Independent Ladies showcase, which is a project of Mónica Mendoza. I talked to Mendoza in March about the way she celebrates women in music in San Diego, Tijuana and Los Angeles. Sunday’s show includes locals Pinkeye, and I love their EP.
Theater and Dance
- Cygnet Theater presents the U.S. premiere of Kate Henning’s “The Virgin Trial.” The script is whip-smart, witty and lyrical (and a bit emotionally devastating), about Elizabeth I and the treasonous accusations regarding her stepfather. After the performance on Friday, I will moderate a talk-back panel with Jamie Beck of Free to Thrive, a nonprofit that fights for victims of human trafficking, and Jenni Prisk of the Women’s Museum of California.
- The first weekend of San Diego Dance Theater’s site-specific Trolley Dances is this weekend! The tickets are tour-based, but given that the performances are in public places, you may be able to catch some of this iconic and very San Diego project as a bystander.
- TwitchCon descends on San Diego this weekend. Twitch, the streaming platform commonly used for gaming but also things like cooking, art and furniture assembly, is bigger than your ushe TV networks. VOSD asked me to write about it earlier this year, so I spent six months of my life diving into the local streaming scene. Con panels include personal branding, inclusivity, “artisan pancakes 101,” yoga, game-specific gtgs, how to make millions and more. I will be live-tweeting.
- Here’s a piece on the way women beer influencers, particularly in San Diego, toe the line between sexism and empowerment, and what influencers mean for the beer industry. (Caña Magazine)
Miscellany and More
- Erstwhile San Diegan Brian Simpson performed a fantastic stand-up set on Comedy Central’s “Lights Out with David Spade” last week.
- Musicologist Charissa Noble is holding a lecture series at the La Jolla Athenaeum, this time on “The Art Mythology of California.” Thursday’s installment challenges the idea of the “cultural wasteland” in California. The final lecture on Oct. 3 is on hip-hop and “outside art” in Los Angeles. (KPBS)
- “Anthropocene” closes at the Bonita Museum and Cultural Center on Saturday.
- A Show About Touching closes at Bread & Salt on Friday. (CityBeat)
- Extreme last chance alert: Melissa Walter’s site-specific sculpture “Of All Things” closes (forever) (i.e., it’ll be destroyed) at ICE Gallery on Sunday, and it’s all by appointment only. This profile and Q&A also includes some tantalizing pictures of the installation. (U-T)
- This is not the grimy Porter’s Pub of the late ‘90s but the new Soda and Swine at UCSD looks pretty decent I guess. (Eater)
- San Diego Sake Fest is Saturday afternoon at Quartyard.
- And for the Sake Fest, Melvin Brewing collaborated with Beshock Ramen on a beer made with obha leaves and an obscure citrus called Buddha’s Hand. (West Coaster)
- Oktoberfest time! The San Diego Tourism Authority rounded up the big ones for you.
- Kettner Exchange’s Brian Redzikowski won the Grand Cochon prize last week in Chicago, which is a culinary prize about … pigs. (Eater)
- Have you seen any restaurant blankies in San Diego yet? More importantly, how often are these things being washed? (Bon Appetit)
- If you can make it past the first paragraph, a terrifying, punishing description of endometriosis pain, this report on what cannabis can do for the pain on a tissue level is fascinating. Plus, A+ illustration. (Leafly)
What’s Inspiring Me Right Now
- After learning that a UCSD alum astronaut, Jessica Meir, is heading to the International Space Station Wednesday, I discovered that she also worked on a scientific study that involved bar-headed geese hatchlings imprinting on her and she even taught them to fly. “They treated her as their mother.” (Washington Post)
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