POSTED ON FEBRUARY 17, 2010:
Honoring the Past
Philbrook Museum opens exhibit dedicated to painter Hans Hofmann
Opening Sunday, Philbrook Museum of Art will celebrate the work of modern painter and art teacher Hans Hofmann.
"Hans Hofmann: Circa 1950" includes a collection of nine painting studies Hofmann created for architect Josep Sert's 1950 Peruvian city plan, Chimbote Project, as well as other works by the artist in 1950.
The studies were used for a series of murals and represent the "depth of Hofmann's strengths as an abstract painter and modernist visionary," according to Philbrook representatives.
"1950 was a singularly important year for Hans Hofmann," a press release from the museum said. "Not only did this period mark his full maturity as a painter--he produced more than 50 pieces that year--it was also one of his most productive periods as a writer. In the post-war years, the artist wrote a significant amount, revealing the intricacies of his intellectual concerns and his creative processes.
"Hofmann turned 70 in 1950, many years past what is often considered an artist's 'prime.' But like Picasso, who was also doing compelling work in his seventies and beyond, Hofmann proved that an artist is capable of producing relevant and provocative work well into the later part of life."
Hofmann (1880-1966) has been called a Fauvist, a cubist and an abstract expressionist, but rather than conform to one style of painting, he combined many styles to create his own personal style, according to Hanshofmann.net, a Web site dedicated to the artist.
"The key to Hofmann's paintings is his passion for nature, whether perceived on location, from memory or imagination," the site said. "He incessantly probed natural elements, focusing on volume and geometric forms in positive and negative spaces...
"His work was generally well-received, but he was never a leader of a particular movement. Hofmann was known as a synthesist because he brought together traditional methods of avant-garde concepts concerning the nature of painting, largely based on Cezanne, Kandinsky and Picasso's synthetic cubism."
The Web site also said, since Hofmann was such a highly regarded instructor, the value of his work was often measured against the theories and principles he taught.
Among Hofmann's students are Ray Eames, Larry Rivers, Lee Krasner and Wolf Kahn, who, 82 now, recently spoke with Philbrook's Jeff Martin in an interview posted on the museum's blog, philbrookmuseum.blogspot.com.
As Martin explains, Kahn was studying under another teacher, Stuart Davis, in 1947, when his older brother, landscape artist Peter Kahn, persuaded him to enroll in the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts.
"According to Kahn, Hofmann used 'a lot of cheap paint,'" Martin wrote. "He would take a large tube of paint, cut off the larger end and squeeze it all out onto the canvas. At the end of the day, if he wasn't happy with the results, he would direct Kahn to scrape the paint from the canvas onto wax paper.
"After scraping the multiple colors all together, the jumbled glob would end up resembling a color Kahn describes as 'calf-shit brown.' Not knowing what to do with this paint, he approached Hofmann and asked if he should discard it. Hofmann, in his thick German accent replied, 'Tomorrow I will use the brown as contrast. It will be my scheisse.'"
Kahn told Martin, Hofmann's "sense of color" greatly influenced his work.
"His work was harsh and severe and lacked sensuousness that I have tried to put into my work," Kahn said. "He would always say that he was trying to 'expand his mode of expression.'"
A biography about Hofmann compiled for the PBS documentary Hans Hofmann: Artist/Teacher, Teacher/Artist said, "In addition to his paintings, Hofmann's continuing legacy includes not only those students who became accomplished artists but also those who became teachers and mentors themselves, spreading Hofmann's influence far beyond the large numbers he taught.
"Hofmann was recognized for helping students find their own distinctive ways to practice art. He never insisted they become abstract artists; in fact, most of his students never saw his own paintings until after he had retired from teaching."
"Hans Hofmann: Circa 1950" opens Sunday, Feb. 21 at Philbrook, 2727 S. Rockford Road, and runs through May 9. At 2pm Sunday, exhibition curator Catherine Morris will present a lecture on the artist's work, vision and the pivotal year of 1950. The lecture, in the Patti Johnson Wilson Hall, is free with museum admission.
General admission is $7.50, and museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm. More information is at philbrook.org.
And the Winner Is...
Philbrook will also host a screening of the entrants in Living Arts' 24-Hour Video Race. The race offered teams 24 hours in which to create a new video artwork, using a specific theme, prop and line of dialogue.
The videos will be shown Thursday, Feb. 18 in Philbrook's Patti Johnson Wilson Hall. The event begins at 5pm with a cash bar, and the screening begins at 6pm. The videos will be judged that night and winners announced at a post-show reception at Living Arts, 307 E. Brady.
The event is free with paid museum admission.
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