Christopher Martin Hoff

Sometimes, walking around Seattle, I snap photos of construction sites, wondering how the late plein air painter, Christopher Martin Hoff, might have framed the scene.

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My framings, on screen, are always wrong. The eye in my head distorts proportions, gives significance to meaningful details and squeezes or stretches what's in the peripheries, according to some hierarchy of attention I consistently fail to map to two dimensions.

Moment_frame_5_Hoff_2005_30x24Hoff's frames are always right. Whether grand, of a vista, or telescoping from a disadvantaged angle as at right, as from under the shadow of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

What's unique about his work is more than framing, of course.

I don't know if Hoff was a great painter, but he was very much an original, in the sense that you can always immediately recognize his hand. Earnestness is the first thing you see. Then I think it's the perpetual wetness of everything he renders.

Here's (what I think is) a photograph by Lars Tunbjork, taken in a different decade than Hoff's work and using a different vocabulary of the street.

Lars photoThis photo borrows its motion from a Mondrian or Calder-like play of geometric shapes that shimmer and cascade, mostly on a flat plane. The chromatic brightness of the palette seems to go hand in hand with such an aesthetic.

The contrast with Hoff makes me think that Hoff was more interested in seeing the space between things, in the volume of relationships, almost as though he were illuminating the empty dark matter than binds everything in outerspace.


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