Sunday, August 7, 2011

Studying with Hans Hoffman

 “Hofmann's ability to handle paint, to fuse the action of painting and drawing into a single, immediate gesture, carried colored pigment into the viewer's presence with the force of a bomb. . . . Hofmann's genius lay in his ability to expand our dimensional experience of the pictorial surface.”—Frank Stella, 1999

Going back in time to study with one of the most influential teachers of modern art would require a time machine and I am afraid that we haven't built one yet. But the next best thing is right here in the Bay Area. UC Berkeley has a huge collection of Hoffman paintings and almost always has one gallery exhibiting work.
After all, the Berkeley Art Museum was founded in 1963 by following the donation to the university of forty-five paintings and $250,000 from artist and teacher Hans Hofmann. Their on-line data base also has a large number of Hoffman images; the archive is not very searchable but the images are fairly large and the captions are comprehensive.

"In preparation for "The Tides of Provincetown: Pivotal Years in America’s Oldest Continuous Art Colony 1899-2011" The New Britain Museum compiled a link list of online interactives and research materials. If you've ever wondered what it was like to take classes with legendary art teacher Hans Hofmann in Provincetown, check out this video which was included on their list. I'm looking forward to seeing the exhibition, which focuses on Provincetown's legacy as an art colony and includes over 100 artists from Charles W. Hawthorne's founding of the Cape Cod School of Art in 1899 to the present day. Apparently it's the most comprehensive survey of the art colony completed in over 40 years. I'll put up a list of participating artists shortly."

Reviewed in The Boston Globe.

"The Tides of Provincetown: Pivotal Years in America's Oldest Continuous Art Colony 1899-2011," The New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT. Through Oct. 16, 2011."

Now, I have to confess that I was not that impressed by the last show at the BAM (2008?).  The "push pull" theory usually means a square is plopped down in the middle of loose, abstract brushwork. It was probably revolutionary for the time and he was certainly an influential teacher but I wish I liked his work better. However, they are colorful enough to stand up to the dead gray color of the museum's walls and powerful enough to counteract that echoing space in the middle of the building. Maybe it's time for another retrospective - as if the overworked staff at the BAM doesn't have enough to do! Sometimes I wonder what pieces I would chose if I were to put up a show from the permanent collection - it's probably a good thing that I won't ever get the chance.

 Games, videos and other resources:
images from the Berkeley Art Museum archive.

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