Lo­gan Maxwell Hagege: Dreams From a Big City

Lo­gan Maxwell Hagege crosses the coun­try for a new show at Ger­ald Peters Gallery in New York City.

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS - By Michael Claw­son

It’s hard to imag­ine to­day, but New York City was once the cul­tural hub for Western art. Con­sider this pedi­gree: Wil­liam R. Leigh had a stu­dio in New York City, Fred­eric Rem­ing­ton’s stu­dio was out­side the city in New Rochelle, Frank Ten­ney John­son and Ernest L. Blu­men­schein both stud­ied at the Art Stu­dents League on 57th Street, Olaf Wieghorst was a mounted po­lice­man in Man­hat­tan where his beat in­cluded the Cen­tral Park bri­dle paths, Al­bert Bier­stadt main­tained a stu­dio in the fa­mous Tenth Street Stu­dio Build­ing be­fore and af­ter his fa­mous trips West, and even Charles M. Russell, known for his au­then­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of cow­boys far re­moved from large cities, ven­tured to the city to sell his work at the turn of the last cen­tury. And that’s just artists; not mu­se­ums, gal­leries and deal­ers.

As new forms of art emerged—the 1913 Ar­mory Show, modernism, cu­bism, ab­strac­tion… not a cow­boy in sight—new York City slowly opened it­self up to a wider va­ri­ety of art­work. In re­sponse, Western art drifted west to places such as Oklahoma, Colorado, Wy­oming, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Scotts­dale, Ari­zona. Al­though many gal­leries and artists have done very well there for decades, to­day the city is an elu­sive des­ti­na­tion for many Western artists, which is not en­tirely sur­pris­ing given the dif­fer­ences—sage­brush and saguaros ver­sus sub­ways and sky­scrapers.

Lo­gan Maxwell Hagege hopes to change that. On May 11, the Cal­i­for­nia painter will bring his Western work to Ger­ald Peters Gallery in Man­hat­tan, mere min­utes away from the Metropolit­an Mu­seum of Art. The show, ti­tled Where Land Meets Sky, will not only be Hagege’s first exhibition in the east—a ma­jor one at that—it will also mark the artist’s per­sonal de­vel­op­ment as a Western artist, and also more broadly as a con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can artist.

“When Ger­ald Peters Gallery sug­gested a show, they first of­fered their Santa Fe gallery. I was the one who ac­tu­ally pro­posed hav­ing it in New York. Santa Fe would have been great, I love to show there, but I’ve wanted a New York show for a while,” Hagege says from his Los An­ge­les-area stu­dio. “I wanted to get my work out­side this tight lit­tle re­gion that I’ve been show­ing in.” He wanted to go east, back to where many early Amer­i­can artists would re­group, cre­ate, show and sell their work. He wanted to go to Amer­ica’s city, New York City.

Hagege is a for­mi­da­ble force in Western art. His works are in nu­mer­ous mu­seum col­lec­tions and he’s been hon­ored with awards at many of the top mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tions, not to men­tion sold­out shows and new works that are scooped up be­fore they can even make it to gallery walls. To put it into better per­spec­tive, con­sider this small detail: at the most re­cent Masters of the Amer­i­can West exhibition at the Autry Mu­seum of the Amer­i­can West, Hagege’s works oc­cu­pied the first wall in­side the gallery space, a space that has his­tor­i­cally been the home to new works by Howard Terp­n­ing, who has since re­tired from mu­seum shows. For Hagege, these honors, ac­co­lades and con­sis­tent sales—also thought­ful, mag­nif­i­cently com­posed, mas­ter­fully col­ored paint­ings that evoke the lone­li­ness and sa­cred­ness of the desert—have es­tab­lished him as one of the pre­em­i­nent voices within the world of Western art.

The only place left for him to go is up and out, be­yond the bub­ble of Western art it­self.

“I don’t see my­self as strictly a ‘Western artist.’ That term sort of both­ers me be­cause it puts my work into a box. I see my work as more re­gional if any­thing else,” he says. “And re­ally, what it comes down to is that I never re­ally thought of my work fit­ting into any mar­ket. I never painted with that goal.”

The painter points to artists who came be­fore him, peo­ple like Rem­ing­ton and mem­bers of the Taos So­ci­ety of Artists. “They were re­gion­al­ist trans­plants who were cre­at­ing things and bring­ing them back to the big cities. It was dis­tinctly Amer­i­can art that just so hap­pened to fea­ture the Amer­i­can West,” he says. “If we can strip the ti­tle off the work then more peo­ple can see it, and they can see it for what it is. When peo­ple think of the West they think of cow­boys and Na­tive Amer­i­cans, and these are the most Amer­i­can of icons, and yet we want to box it up and pull it away from the rest of Amer­i­can art.”

He points to an artist like Los An­ge­les-based painter Jonas Wood, a con­tem­po­rary painter who de­picts fig­ures, in­te­rior spa­ces and still lifes us­ing bold and vivid colors in an al­most David Hock­ney-es­que man­ner. Western col­lec­tors are un­fa­mil­iar with Wood, and Wood col­lec­tors are un­fa­mil­iar with Western artists. If one side doesn’t give a lit­tle, there will be a con­stant bar­rier be­tween them, walling off artists, col­lec­tors, gal­leries and even sub­ject mat­ter.

What Hagege is sug­gest­ing isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a rad­i­cal de­par­ture away from Western art, but rather a par­a­digm shift, one that al­lows Western art to be con­sid­ered within a larger con­text, one that has the po­ten­tial to bring in new col­lec­tors and—since Hagege is still only 38 years old— younger col­lec­tors. What better place to do this than in New York City, thou­sands of miles away from all the other top Western des­ti­na­tions?

He says he’s not ner­vous about his New York de­but—“i’m not ner­vous be­cause I don’t equate sales with suc­cess,” he says—but he is ready to shift his own at­ti­tude about New York col­lec­tors. “I was told they like to think about things and come back to the gallery af­ter the art­work has set in their minds for a cou­ple days, rather than just buy­ing be­cause they may miss out on a piece. I’m OK with that,” the artist says. “It’s just fur­ther proof that the art crowd in New York is just a dif­fer­ent thing al­to­gether.”

For the work it­self, Hagege is bring­ing some very unique pieces to the Ger­ald Peters show, in­clud­ing sev­eral close-up portraits of one of his fa­vorite sub­jects, Apache actor and model Ch­es­ley Wil­son, a fre­quent char­ac­ter in many of Hagege’s works. Other works in­clude Headed Sky­ward, a floral still life in front of clouds and moun­tains that feel like vi­gnettes from a lon­glost Ge­or­gia O’ke­effe paint­ing, and Tom Mix, which shows a Tom Mix-style hat on a wooden fen­ce­post amid a desert scene. The paint­ing per­fectly clar­i­fies Hagege’s fa­vorite mo­tif: flat el­e­ments with three-di­men­sional depth. “Some as­pects of Tom Mix are very ren­dered com­pared to el­e­ments of the back­ground or fore­ground. In some ways it’s an il­lu­sion, be­cause the el­e­ments are so flat that they shouldn’t have depth to them, but they do,” he says. “The trick I some­times use is to paint some­thing—like the sage­brush in the fore­ground here, for in­stance— with a min­i­mal amount of detail and the eye just fills in the rest. Even with bare el­e­ments, you can start push­ing ob­jects in the the paint­ing back and forth, and your eye will al­ways work it out and go be­yond that.”

In Rio Grande, he paints a sin­gle fig­ure, his blan­ket-wrapped body cre­at­ing a slight halo ef­fect against the blue sky. The fig­ure, with that exquisitel­y col­ored blan­ket, re­turns in The Rain Falls, The Sun Shines, a clas­sic Hagege im­age of two fig­ures on horse­back and framed by clouds that seem to mush­room out of pur­ple hills in the dis­tance. “This one was pretty true to the scene I saw in Taos. I remember just try­ing to make sense of the chaos that you find in na­ture. It’s so busy and has so much detail, with a zil­lion dif­fer­ent things go­ing on,” he says. “The chal­lenge is to sim­plify it just enough.”

Hagege, a stu­dent of Western his­tory, is thrilled to be show­ing in a city long known for its arts and arts cul­ture. “His­tor­i­cally, this place res­onates with me a lot, from Rem­ing­ton to [Charles] Schreyvo­gel to the Sal­ma­gundi Club to the great sa­lon shows,” he says. “It’s ex­cit­ing to bring some work out east and show it. I’m also ex­cited it’s go­ing to be an event, some­thing big­ger than just art on a wall—just do­ing my part bring­ing some Western art out that di­rec­tion.”

Let the New York Western Re­nais­sance be­gin.

Headed Sky­ward, oil on linen, 24 x 16”

Rio Grande, oil on linen, 31 x 22”

Op­po­site page: Tom Mix (detail), oil on linen, 31 x 22” Above: The Rain Falls, The Sun Shines, oil on linen, 32 x 43”

Por­trait – Mid Day, oil, 12 x 9”

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