Infection of body and mind

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Infection of body and mind
Douglas Hoffman
Through Sept. 5 at Bold Hype Gallery
1844 E. Winter Park Road

Delicious yet deadly, Brooklyn artist Douglas Hoffman's writhing, biomechanical world reeks of post-apocalyptic cultural schisms, post-plague survival and post-invasion hybrid species. This emerging artist's exceptionally intense depiction of the alienated self, threatened by tentacles, phalanges, larvae, mosquitoes, syringes and two-faced robotic doctors, speaks to our own sense of self-alienation and spiritual standoff with Western scientific society.

In his 30s, Hoffman is showing early work and fresh pieces at Bold Hype, ranging from drawings to paintings to trademark children's figures — hard plastic dolls with double-phallic ears, treated by Hoffman as canvases for his relentless narrative of medical treatment gone badly wrong.

Within Orlando's competitive street art scene, some of the real talents are informed by Chicago, Brooklyn and Caribbean styles. Hoffman's decidedly Brooklyn 3-D throw-ups compare well, and his early portraiture brings to mind the haunting faces created by local Ewok One, a Brooklyn transplant.

Hoffman assumes a more painterly style for his later canvases, which have the delicate hand of Rembrandt's pen-and-ink studies of common people. Victimization seems to recur as a theme, as in "Caustraphobic," a green figure trapped within the mouth of a childlike yet ancient-faced alien, himself wielding a bread knife in futility against a dangling tentacle, an insect gripping his forehead. This victim-within-victim motif haunts much of the early work, but is contrasted with the startlingly clear 3-D aerosols set against a neutral background. These graffiti expressions offer a more uplifting message in contrast to the tortured space inhabited by his abused, unbalanced figures.

Hoffman's newer pieces travel into explorations of transparency, layering faces within faces and bodies within bodies within machines in calligraphic, 3-D, ghostlike imagery. By using fluorescent hues, such as in his "Ginger Potion" series, Hoffman creates visually riveting work; after being seduced to move in closer, viewers are halted with horror by the theme revealed. Even an ordinary guy like the artist's "Tea Taster" conceals unraveling arteries, bluish brain folds and sickening green spirits rising from the cup.

Hoffman, like Tea Taster, may have retreated into himself, precisely observing the gremlins infecting our society and enjoying every minute of it.

Rex Thomas

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