Cogan on the beach: When I learned that San Francisco painter Kim Cogan had undertaken seascapes, I thought he might finally have overreached.
A prodigious painter of architecture and light, Cogan has revivified both the San Francisco cityscape and the realism that he practices to describe it. But as his recent pictures at Hespe attest, the ocean presents very different challenges.
For one thing, the ocean never stands still - the opposite of architecture in that respect.
Cogan found that fixing a credible image as a starting point required synthesizing information from unnumbered photographs, yet no one will mistake the finished paintings for photo-realism.
Cogan's technique, regardless of the subject, yields something less explicit than a photograph or even a focused gaze. In that sense the misty atmosphere of a light-starved picture such as "Wave No. 19" (2012) suits him perfectly.
The elliptical shape of Cogan's wave pictures will disturb some eyes at first, though a considerable tradition lies behind it. He chose the ellipse because its two foci create a visual sway that suits the subject.
Yet, impressive as they are technically - they can even stand comparison with Winslow Homer's seascapes - Cogan's wave paintings have an air of demonstration pieces about them, of mere triumphs of determination over artistry. Hespe has wisely included some of Cogan's rectangular canvases, though several of these also, especially "Surf Motel" (2012), evoke oceanside moods and light.