David Hoffos: rural phantasmagoria

November 26, 2007

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Rudimentary illuminators and panels of wood commingle to create ghosts and suspect art gallery patrons in the work of artist David Hoffos, whose presentations have taken the form of large-scale gallery installations to miniature dioramas hidden away, carved into the gallery walls. His created environments have strong immersive qualities to them, from the darkness that engulfs the participant, to the suggestion of place and time by the almost theatrical (Hoffos also works as a set designer for theatre) set constructions, and he has even used oscillating fans in one work to create a sense of the night breeze. Hoffos is a scrounger, borrower, and all-around innovator, wanting to get the most out of every medium he explores, to the point where his work often incorporates out-dated technologies doing very contemporary and boundary pushing activities generally associated with much more advanced systems.

There is much emphasis by Hoffos himself on the influence of (his) dreams in his work. He states that many of his ideas come to him in dreams; that he had a dream about something and the next thing he knew he was recreating that in the form of an artwork. And his pieces certainly have that surreal, dreamlike quality to them. Darkness and atmosphere lend themselves to this end, as do concepts based on alien invasions, underwater and futuristic cities, and even dreams themselves, as in Scenes from the House Dream (2005). Paradoxically, Hoffos states that he’s more interested in the presentation system over the presentation matter; but then maybe this makes sense in relation to his obsession with dreams, which are more about relation to the system they emerge from, occurring at the time of regeneration of the body, and thought to be simply a byproduct of the organizing processes of the mind, than they are to any specific message (Jung might disagree).

A very personalized historical element runs through Hoffos’ body of work. He is interested in specificities of person, place and time as much as he is in ambiguities of mood, situation, and state of mind (are the alien ships hovering over the small town tongue-in-cheek or genuinely frightening … or both?). And there is always the feeling that he wants us to look closer, to peer deeper, to explore, with our own personalized histories, questions and anxieties. His work is a kind of template for our own self projected and created narratives. An empty living room set invites the viewer to free associate: all-American, 1950’s, wholesome family values. But this same set allows for variations and discrepancies with subtle details, like “What is that there, on the floor, between the armchairs?” It’s all a bit domestic fantasy, a sort of rural phantasmagoria. And is it any wonder that Hoffos has some good stories about Bigfoot?

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