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Around the Galleries
Friday, November 7, 2008

Mobilizing Images of War
By Christopher Knight, Art Critic

Darren Hostetter's 15 mournful paintings on aluminum panels at the Sam Lee Gallery merge nature and culture. Weapons of war assume a condition as humanly unmanageable as the fickle weather.

Flat or slightly modulated fields of color are arrayed with small, meticulously rendered images of fighter jets, cargo planes, surveillance satellites, surface-to-air missiles and the like. Hostetter arranges this military hardware in compositions that suggest natural phenomena -- a swarm of insects, snowflakes, a flock of geese, ice crystals on glass, a galaxy in deep space or a school of fish in the deep sea.

Perhaps it's a combination of the subject matter and the metal sheets, which stand an inch or so away from the wall, but the paintings suggest the solitary aura of a model airplane enthusiast. (Hostetter studied illustration before finishing his master's degree in fine arts.) The quiet tension between destructive weaponry and human nature -- between the machinery of death and the miracle of life, here fused into a single entity -- is at once gentle and threatening, pretty and bleak.

Sam Lee Gallery, 990 N. Hill Street #190, Chinatown, Los Angeles, (323) 227-0275, through December 6. Closed Sundays through Tuesdays. www.samleegallery.com.


December 2008
Volume 28, No. 4

Darren Hostetter’s candy colored acrylic on aircraft aluminum paintings of military jets, weapons and helicopters are contradictory visions. While fighter jets and weapons are swallowed up in the overall pattern of a luminous afterglow, their deadliness remains intact. Growing up with a father who worked for the classified sector of the aerospace industry, Hostetter takes the streamlined shapes of these magnificent machines and turns the tables; instead of twisting their way to targets, his aircraft and weapons become decorative patterns as they multiply and divide against backgrounds of glowing red, blue, pink and orange.

An earlier, subtle painting of “Circling Hawks” remains an inspiration for Hostetter as his jets, drones and helicopters emulate the intricate formations and precision flying of flocks of birds. Natural phenomenon also appears in the painting “In The Deep,” where cruise missiles dive like schools of fish into a midnight blue realm. In “Omnipotence” he portrays a military satellite as shimmering blue plates being juggled through space in an elegant dance, instead of an unseen eye constantly relaying secret and terrifying information. Particularly strong is the lovely pink painting, “Forest,” where multiple silver cruise missiles fly low over a thicket of bristling antennae and satellite receivers, as is “Green Black Hawks,” where dramatic black helicopters with spinning blades vibrate against a lime green background. The military industrial complex becomes an ironic thing of beauty, not of death and destruction (Sam Lee Gallery, Chinatown).

-----Kathy Zimmerer-McKelvie