Art in America
by Gerrit Henry
John Hrehov's new work constitutes a considerable advance over his last show in New York, at Bibro in 2000. There, a "fearful symmetry," as William Blake phrased it, presided. Suburban Indiana housescapes and interiors (Hrehov teaches at Purdue University) doubled in or folded out on themselves with an almost M.C. Escher-like regularity, and the subject matter--the pleasures and perils of small-town existence--seemed frail.
Hrehov today has not shaken off all such fanatical formalism, nor has his subject matter changed much. But there is a new tone and attitude to it all--a new wit, a new symbolism, even a new poetry. The wit? Hrehov smiles crookedly at all he surveys; his attitude is both fond and critical, which makes for considerable amounts of irony. The symbolism? We only have to take in an oil on canvas on panel like Passing Through, with its huge blue jay winging its way across a bay of three partially opened windows against a brilliant red sunset sky, punctuated by dark green trees, to realize that something is going on here beyond the literal. The poetry resides just generally in the new suggestiveness of the work.
A good example is Garage Sale. Squarely at canvas center sits a green-shingled garage, unattached to any house, bordered on either side by towering firs and crowned with a green-and-gray-tiled roof surmounted by an angel-with-trumpet weather vane. The contents of the garage sale--a coiled hose, a clock, ginger jar lamps, a rack of high-colored clothes--are something short of spectacular. Maybe there are "finds" here--or perhaps the seeming paucity of them is Hrehov's sly commentary on the futility of material dreams.