In March, COLE PRATT GALLERY will feature photorealist watercolorist STEPHAN HOFFPAUIR. An opening reception will be held March 7th from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. As a respite from the rigors of architectural detail, HOFFPAUIR has found himself turning more recently towards still life, specifically the grocery store still life, a genre that allows him to further explore this relationship as well as to use a more vibrant palette. This group of paintings is part of an ongoing series on the dialogue between food, packaging and viewer, with packaging serving as interlocutor.

HOFFPAUIR believes that in New Orleans — a place whose identity is entwined with both architecture and food — it is almost impossible for a painter of the city’s physical environment to not, at some point, deal with the architecture of its food. Whether a neighborhood grocery story or a suburban coffee shop, the relationship between the two is essential. In the 20th century, the packaging and marketing of food took on tremendous importance, so much so that buildings themselves became a kind of packaging and marketing device. Like labels on a soup can, these buildings and their oversized signage seek both to convey information as well as to entice and seduce the consumer. 

A grocery store interior is a highly choreographed affair, with the placement and quantity of each item carefully chosen to maximize sales. The visual strategies — repetition, pattern, light, color — are employed to suggest abundance but also happen to be those that an artist or designer would readily recognize and use. Technology has reached the point that the plastic containers in which produce is often sold are so thin and light that they have become almost invisible, their presence made visible only by the dark reflections and bright highlights that bring an added luminescence to the fruit or vegetables inside them. The irony is, that a material that is the very symbol of artificiality is employed to promote something that is intrinsically natural.  

Some of the still life paintings in this series are as formally arranged as any traditional still life, though with a certain minimalist austerity and exaggerated depth of field meant to evoke an urban landscape. In others, the arrangement is accidental, their compositions a coincidence. Both portray a distinctly contemporary approach to eating. As with HOFFPAUIR’S older paintings of overlooked spaces and buildings, they are explorations that seek to find beauty and transcendence in the mundane.

Originally from New Orleans, HOFFPAUIR spends most of his time in Oakland, CA. He received his Bachelor of Architecture from LSU in 1977. Since then he has been featured in many exhibitions and publications, including winning multiple awards for his work.