ALEXANDRE HOGUE'S personal brand of southwestern realism calls for furrows, ridges, ditches, hollows, channels and seams -- neon mountains puckering and folding, showing the crow's feet of age. Hogue gets into the groove.
At the Museum of American Art, 32 of his paintings and lithographs show a southwest where nature prevails. Dust storms defy the barbed wire fences erected by mortals. Dunes avalanche over railroads. Oil pipelines are an afterthought, and oil rigs apostrophes on the horizon.
Born in 1898, raised in Texas, Hogue had an intimate view of the Dust Bowl during the Depression. In contrast to some of the Farm Security Administration photographers who chronicled the faces of devastated people, Hogue's sympathies were with the land. He captured what he called the "sinister beauty" in its face: in "Drught Stricken Area," where buzzards and broken windmills preside over the arid waste of a farm; in "Crucified Land," where a scarecrow becomes a cross on a red field a farmer had foolishly plowed downhill, fostering erosion.
At times, Hogue's realism on the edge of abstraction is reminiscent of Georgia O'Keeffe's, whether he's closing in on a mullein plant or stepping back to sculpt with paint the larger view, in exaggerated contours and heightened colors.
Following the furrows of the flesh of the land, Hogue gets down to the bare essentials with "Mother Earth Laid Bare." The land is plowed back -- to reveal a nude female, flat on her back, passive and taken. When Hogue was a boy working with his mother in the garden, she used to speak of Mother Earth, and that's where he got the idea. "To my youthful imagination," Hogue once said, "this thought conjured up visions of a great female figure under the ground everywhere -- and so I would tread easy on the ground."
ALEXANDRE HOGUE -- At the Museum of American Art through November 3.