Carlson Hatton


Flaws In A Victorian Veil
Acrylic and graphite on paper on panel, edged with aluminum
30 1⁄4″ x 44″
Photo: courtesy of the artist

It’s easy to get lost in Carlson Hatton’s work. Utilizing a strong backbone of drawing along with elements of painting and printmaking, these complex works on paper blend a multitude of abstract patterns with figurative elements, creating intriguing juxtapositions that seem at once vaguely familiar and utterly fantastic. In one work, a grid-patterned cat sits observing a set of shapes that resemble a mother and child; in front of them, a moaning woman lies prostrate, while behind them, a tree-like pattern disappears into a grassy background. This hypnotic imagery tightly references commonly seen motifs while eluding clear narratives, creating instead a pliable space for the imagination.

A native of San Diego with fine arts degrees from Cooper Union in New York and De Ateliers in Amsterdam, Hatton has been living and working in Los Angeles for about a decade. His home, a Silver Lake fixer-upper that he and his wife, an artist and psychotherapist, renovated themselves, reflects the artist’s philosophy that living and working spaces should be seamlessly integrated. A sunny living room and kitchen are at the center of the house, with sliding doors on the side that open onto two studio spaces. Movement among all these spaces is constant and easy.

“I find that I take a lot of things directly out of my mailbox that work their way into my studio,” Hatton reflects. “I’ll see something on television, or I’ll notice the way that the mail is stacked up-I find all these accidents that happen in daily life that I want to record right away.” This sense of inspiration taken from everyday life and constant experimentation with materials are palpable throughout the artist’s work, which seem to incorporate a freefall of manifold visual elements. Hatton credits this way of working to a basic collage aesthetic that has informed his work since he was in college.

“For a while, I abandoned painting and drawing altogether and focused on collage,” Hatton recounts. “In grad school in the Netherlands, I was given a very large studio and I started making big installations, videos and animations. I’d collect a lot of materials, and they would all filter their way into these projects.”

Hatton returned to painting and drawing with more of an editorial mindset, where he mines large amounts of material to create focused individual works. “At this point, I want it to be a collage sensibility, but it has to be resolved on a single plane. If it gets too collage-like, where there are multiple physical layers, I feel like that misses the point, where the work gets filtered through me into a single flat layer. All that information from magazines, photos, wherever-I am filtering it thru my hand, and that enables it to create its own world.”

Hatton counts among his influences David Reed and Marlene Dumas, with whom he studied at Cooper Union and De Ateliers, respectively. “Reed makes paintings that are site-specific, somewhat installational. The idea that the paintings belong in a bedroom, I always find kind of fascinating. I liked Dumas’ use of watercolor-the directness of the media and the way that it offers the richness of painting while referencing things that don’t at all have that richness within them.” The dense works of Lari Pittman and Albrecht Dürer are constant sources of inspiration, with books of their work usually present in Hatton’s studio. He is also fascinated by Henry Darger. “I’m intrigued by the flatness and depth that simultaneously occur within his work, and the way he’s creating these bizarre coloring books, essentially, that kind of draw you in because you might recognize something from popular culture, but there’s not a strong enough link to stop it from becoming its own bizarre world.”

Hatton’s unique methodology includes washes of watercolor mixed in with layers of masking, stenciling and silkscreening. His technique can be rigorous, and his surprising choice of the fragile medium of paper turns out to be strategic. “It’s true that paper can only take so much, and I like that it has that threshold, that certain point where things won’t work and it’ll get too rippled or too destroyed. Those limitations force me to make decisions and stick with them, rather than layering and layering until things work themselves out, which could be forever, and I find there’s something less brave about that. I like to have some vision as to where it’s headed.”

”Carlson Hatton: Ataxia” was on view at Ruth Bachofner Gallery, in Santa Monica, from March 8 – April 19, 2014.

“Stupor,” a solo show of works by Carlson Hatton, could be seen at the Santa Monica College Art Gallery, from February 18 – March 29, 2014.

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Carol Cheh
Carol Cheh is a writer and curator based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of Another Righteous Transfer!, a blog that explores LA's performance art scene, and Word is a Virus, a monthly Art21 column exploring the intersection between the visual and the literary arts. Her writing has appeared in LA Weekly, East of Borneo, and Glass Tire, among other outlets. Her curatorial projects have included You Don't Bring Me Flowers: An Evening of Re-Performances (PØST, 2010) and Signals: A Video Showcase (Orange County Museum of Art, 2008).