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The Washington Post, Washington, D.C.

Galleries; Hannan, Master of Metaphor

Author: Wilson, Janet June 1, 1991 Robert Motherwell once said that he judged whether his work was good by whether he was able to recognize himself in it. One suspects that this "shock of recognition" is not uncommon for Washington artist Greg Hannan, whose recent work is on view at the Addison-Ripley Gallery. Hannan's intensely personal paintings are a combination of abstraction and representation that speak metaphorically of his own life as well as his despair about our contemporary society. Painter-poet Hannan is no stranger to veteran Washington gallery-goers, especially since last year's Corcoran Gallery One show, but to the viewer encountering his work for the first time, it comes as an unexpected pleasure. Many of his images linger in the mind long after one has exited the gallery. In "Montello Gang," for example, Hannan's stark depiction of a graffiti- covered brick wall bearing the names of gang members becomes a lamentation not just for a specific act of gang violence but for all such senseless tragedies. There is hope as well as despair, however, in Hannan's work, which he often expresses in terms of the regenerative power of nature. This is conveyed not only through the figurative motifs employed but also by the artist's deliberate choice of weathered wood, detritus he imbues with new life without forfeiting its signs of wear. Tapping this vein is the large-scale "Dasha," perhaps the show's most outstanding work. A central image of sunflowers is surrounded by inset panels of found wood that are combined and transformed into a landscape bespeaking renewal, a winter that is always followed by spring. Hannan's extended forays to Nova Scotia undoubtedly deepen his sense of nature in all its transience. "Islander's Lament" is one of the show's smaller works, this one on paper, but it is one of the most compelling. Against a black background is a descending row of three birds' heads in profile in progressive stages of deterioration. Juxtaposed is a tan square in which a bright red carnation seems to leap out as a life-affirming talisman.
Hannan is not an artist easily pigeonholed. His concerns are as varied as the ways he goes about expressing them, and he seems willing to risk going out on a metaphoric limb. It doesn't always work, as is the case with "Other Voice," a histrionic confrontation between a topsy-turvy yellow creature and a massive white bull-like head. But when it does work - and that is often - all systems are go. Did I mention that no curatorial essay or artist's text accompanies this show? Hannan doesn't need a statement. His work already makes one. reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission. article link: www.washingtonpost.com/Greg Hannan/2003
Hannan Greg
DASHA (Russian Garden Series), 1991, acrylic and emulsion on found wood 89” x 79”