In his opening preface to Recent Forgeries, Dennis Hopper says something along the lines that the process in which Mr. Mortensen's art travels is from his subconscious to his conscious and in turn is absorbed by the viewers' subconscious where it forms into a conscious reaction. While it's maybe true there is some visceral reaction to the paintings on an instinctual level — bright colours and forms do provoke reactions — I think that to stop there would be selling his work short.
Mr. Mortensen may not follow a conscious process of observation, questioning and answering when he creates his works, but that is always at the heart of the matter. Whether or not they come together in a particular piece, thought has been given to composition and how materials relate to each other as they help him find things out.
Although abstractions, his work is not simply a half-hazard throwing together of material in the hope that it will make you "feel" something. Look at them a second and a third time and see the work that is involved; spot the clues that he may have left for you as to what he was thinking of at the time. It will be worth your while.
Viggo Mortensen is not a person to do anything lightly; you only have to read the poems that have been included in this work to realize that. More than anything else they are what reveal the complexities that lie behind all of his work. Sometimes describing, like his photos, the seemingly commonplace or the everyday and elevating it to art, his poems read like post-it notes from emotional minefields. On the surface nothing much seems to be happening, but if you were to put a foot down in the wrong place… things could get messy.
Other work brings chaos theory to life when unrelated people become tied in by an event – the man hit by the Harley Davidson owner on her way to the health club, and knocked into the salad bar of the Denny's allows the unemployed actress in the bathroom to walk out without paying her bill. We had learned that the man liked to live dangerously in traffic, ignoring lights and safety, and ironically is killed by someone else ignoring a light driving a vanity vehicle to the health club.