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Hewicker's High Art

Crackdown Clouds at Jack Hanley Gallery

You don't have to be stoned to enjoy Scott Hewicker's neo-hippy cosmic landscape paintings - but it might be fun. His colors are those of Elvis on black velvet, of the fairy glen in your backyard the time you took mushrooms. Hewicker's current show The Crackdown Clouds at the Jack Hanley Gallery presents satisfyingly meaty layers of abstraction that may send you in to a staring trance to rival a hardcore burner. The mostly large-scale works have a vibrant and loud presence but encourage private, even hushed conversation with the viewer.

Hewicker's work pops in your face, first presenting a rather simple reality only to reveal an Escherian multiple-reality, every layer failing to conform to logic or expectation. At times it can feel as if you are trying to remember Hewicker's images and having a hard time even as you are standing there looking at them. You can not be an impartial observer of Hewicker's work, because it simply does not allow your eyes to stop looking. In The Legal Battles of Conflicting Eco-Trends (2002) and All Sorts of Fuckery (2001), he presents a world not exactly that of optical illusion or Surrealism incarnate. Rather, Hewicker's landscapes are more like recollected dreams or acid-flashback psychic visions. Perspectives zoom in and out, time of day and dimensions slip and shift as your eye sweeps the canvas and plays hide and seek with creatures in bubbles and ships on seas.

Paint is applied in so many different ways and with such varied technique that it too becomes a part of the seek and find of the landscapes and contributes to the contradictions inherent in the work. Scraped and sanded paint creates shading with bare and partially painted surfaces of the rough canvas peeking through. Dripped and rolled paint creates and mimics the geography of the landscape. This physical working of the paint is at odds with the more precisely handled detail work of the ethereal and fleeting figurative moments scattered throughout the work, creating a engaging and energizing tension.

While only eight pieces are shown, each creates viable abstracted universes, operating entirely independently of here-on-earth reality and all contain precious moments of discovery and private reckoning. Hewicker's Echoes Answer (2001) and The Legal Battles of Conflicting Eco-Trends (2002) are worth noting as much for their ominous and rather Apocalyptic beauty as for their amazing dorm-room, black-light poster quality. Black Metal (2001) is the smallest piece shown, but one of my favorites for its quietly menacing intimacy and tenuous mixing of subject and technique.

Scott Hewicker's The Crackdown Clouds can be viewed from May 14 - June 8 at the Jack Hanley Gallery, 395 Valencia Street in San Francisco. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 am - 6 pm. Admission is free and more information is available at 415.522.1623 or at www.jackhanley.com.