The "Embers" of San Francisco Burn Bright in the Works of Kim Cogan
For the past two decades, artist Kim Cogan has chronicled the ever-shifting landscapes of urban life through his careful attention to what might otherwise be easily forgotten: quiet alleyways, vacant corner stores, and nondescript city blocks. Titled Embers, the painter’s fourth solo show with Hashimoto Contemporary features new oil paintings that encapsulate the beauty in isolation and the harmony in change.
Marking this new body of work by the Korean-American artist are the massive social and economic changes to his surroundings. As his home town of San Francisco grapples with a post-pandemic existential crisis and as its old economies decline to make way for the next boom, Cogan continues to shine a light on the city’s seemingly static, fixed relics of the past. Local establishments like the Motel Capri (in operation since 1957) or the Philosopher’s Club (a neighborhood bar since 1960) have witnessed tremendous change over the years, and Cogan’s familiar and inviting depictions suggest these places have new stories to tell.
Light and warmth in Cogan’s work signify life—even as these new works are devoid of people. Streets are bathed in lamplight; skies smolder from the haze. Houses made anonymous by subtle, muted tones draw viewers in with a glow from a window. Although his calculated framing and composition direct the viewer’s experience of a scene, the loose brushwork, evident only when seen up close, conveys the artist’s spontaneity. A profound sense of connection between the artist and his environment radiates through Cogan’s work. Amidst a city in constant change, Cogan’s vision stands as one that is honed over time by slowing down and digging deep to find meaning beneath the surface.