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It's Art For An Artist's Sake

March 28, 1985|SUZANNE MUCHNIC | Times Staff Writer

Consider the art community galvanized.

The cause: Patrick Hogan, a revered artist afflicted with an extremely debilitating disease and saddled with enormous expenses.

The event: a "Big Art Raffle" and party to raise funds for Hogan. Proceedings begin at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Museum of Contemporary Art's Temporary Contemporary facility. Admission to the party is $25; raffle tickets, $100.

The benefactors: 159 artists who have given works to the raffle--at an estimated total value of $250,000--and a host of other people who have contributed time, goods, space and services. They are organized under the name Artists for Artists.

The mode of operation: The first winner of the raffle will acquire an instant collection--a predetermined selection of half the 159 artworks donated. The second recipient will walk off with half the remaining pieces, and so on, until all works have beendistributed. The final winner will become the owner of one of Hogan's paintings.

The preview: Donated works are on view at the Jerry Solomon Gallery, 960 N. La Brea Ave., 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through Saturday.

Hogan's benefit has attracted such widespread attention and support that its drumbeaters cite it as a rare example of artists selflessly helping each other. About $43,000 has been raised in sales of raffle tickets, also available Saturday night at the Temporary Contemporary. To order tickets in advance, call the raffle information hot line: 276-1505.

Benefit organizers don't deny ego involvement and a few scuffles over who would and would not be represented in the raffle, but they cite Hogan's courage, talent, intelligence and good humor in the face of nearly insurmountable odds as the one element that brought them together. "The guy is a real inspiration. His tenacity is amazing," said artist Chuck Arnoldi, who initiated the benefit idea to alleviate his longtime friend's desperate financial situation.

"This effort just kept gathering people and steam. It was almost miraculous the way people with expertise would step in just at the moment we needed them," said Valli Lopez, another prime mover of the benefit, who says her close friendship with Hogan has been amply rewarded by--among other things--his being the best-read artist in Los Angeles.

Hogan, 38, is a quadriplegic whose tough-minded abstractions have won him a Guggenheim Fellowship, an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the County Museum of Art's Young Talent Award and solo exhibitions at the Newport Harbor Museum of Art, the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art and Tortue Gallery, which represents him.

He was stricken as a child with Werdnig-Hoffman syndrome (a rare neuromuscular disease) and has been confined to a wheelchair since his youth. Much of his art-making has been the product of directing others to carry out his instructions (in paint-spattered rope on canvas) or of painting with a mouth-held instrument. Recently he acquired a mechanical easel, custom-designed for him at UCLA, but he also suffered a setback, in the form of surgery with a painful aftermath.

He now has been fitted with a specially designed halter to relieve pressure and allow him to paint, but he still depends on a respirator and 24-hour-a-day assistance. It has become too difficult for him to get in and out of cars, so he needs a van that will accommodate his wheelchair.

None of this is information that Hogan broadcasts, or even mentions, except to his closest confidants. "He has never used his physical condition to get support or sympathy, so I had to ask him if he would be embarrassed if we put together a benefit for him," Arnoldi said. Hogan agreed to the idea, and now that the event promises to be a success, Arnoldi says that Hogan is "all revved up" about it.

"He says this is the highlight of his life," added Lopez, who credits the benefit plans with alleviating Hogan's depression over his increasingly weakened and painful condition.

Hogan's predicament is extreme, but it points to a pervasive problem in the art community: Artists living on the edge of poverty simply can't accumulate a nest egg for emergencies. Though Hogan has won substantial monetary awards, they haven't begun to pay his expenses for mere subsistence, much less fund the mechanical devices that allow him a modicum of freedom.

(One organization that provides aid for artists is Change Inc. It grants $500 in response to immediate problems and submits applications for larger amounts to its board, but the East Coast-based organization does not conduct fund-raisers for special causes.)

The general precariousness of artists' existence, emphasized by Hogan's example, apparently rallied artists behind the benefit. For a change, they weren't being asked donate their work to institutions or causes unrelated to them, and they quickly agreed to support an admired colleague. There was talk along the way of establishing an ongoing relief program, but the benefit committee decided to concentrate their effort on Hogan.

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