The aperture console of bank argument at the UC Berkeley Art Architecture attendant for painter Hans Hofmann declares he was “one of the best important abstracts of postwar American art.”
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If he is not as able-bodied accepted as added celebrity artists from the 1940s and 1950s, it is partly his own fault. Born in Germany in 1880, he acclimatized in the United States in the aboriginal 1930s. He was in his 60s back contemporary adolescent artists were blind out in New York City in jeans and T-shirts.
Hofmann was championed by abounding critics of the day, conspicuously the affecting Clement Greenberg. But Greenberg wrote that Hofmann was “perhaps the best difficult artisan animate —difficult to butt and to appreciate.”
He was a “virtuoso of invention,” Greenberg said, but he formed in so abounding styles that the accessible couldn’t get a bright abstraction of his achievement.
“He abundantly said he was not one artist, he was abounding artists,” acclaimed Lucinda Barnes, babysitter of the Berkeley exhibit, which includes 67 paintings and works on cardboard from the 1920s to the mid-1960s. (About a third are from the museum’s own collection, abounding donated by Hofmann.)
What’s more, for decades Hofmann was teaching artists rather than creating art in his studio. He spent summer sessions teaching at UC Berkeley in 1930 and 1931. He after set up an art academy in New York City and again in Provincetown, Massachusetts. From the aboriginal 1930s until the backward 1950s, Barnes said, “he was teaching — painting on the side.”
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His students, and the adolescent artists he influenced, became added acclaimed — amid them Helen Frankenthaler, Larry Rivers, Robert Motherwell and Red Grooms. But Hofmann, who by again was in his 70s, was the aboriginal Abstruse Expressionist artisan to get a attendant display at a New York museum.
All of this leads in a decidedly analytic way to “Hans Hofmann: The Nature of Abstraction,” which fills the big, aerial galleries of the Berkeley architecture through July 21 with admirable color.Hofmann became best accepted for color-block, about mosaic-like abstruse paintings, and of beforehand there are abounding of these in the exhibit. But it additionally alcove into beforehand decades for his abstracts in Cubism, Fauvism, and Surrealism, and extends into the 1960s. The appearance is like a history of 20th-century abstruse art.
In 1963 Hofmann donated about 50 paintings to UC Berkeley, forth with a banknote addition against architecture of a new architecture building.
“The Nature of Abstraction” is a beauteous alleyway through decades of art trends. Hofmann lived in Paris from 1904 to 1914, and he knew Matisse and Picasso. So it’s applicable that the aboriginal arcade in the display shows traces of added painters and art movements: the color-drenched Fauve appearance in Hofmann’s flat still-lifes and landscapes, geometric alfresco scenes suggesting Cubism and after works accompanying to the chargeless duke of Surrealism.
“The Wind” (1942) is a aphotic but active assignment accumulation acrylic dripped anon on a lath surface, the affectionate of address that would accomplish “action painter” Jackson Pollock famous. “Cataclysm (Homage to Howard Putzel)” from 1945 anon recalls Kandinsky.
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Hofmann wasn’t artlessly assuming added artists. “It was a always beginning access to painting,” babysitter Barnes empiric during a arcade tour. “These were brief techniques. He acclimated one to get to another.”
In the backward 1940s came a breakthrough, which Barnes declared as “a new spatial ambit on a two-dimensional surface.” Hofmann generally abiding rectangles in primary colors on the canvas, developing a address area black panels seemed to beforehand and recede. He alleged it the “push and pull” accord amid form, blush and space.
There are academic and breezy variations of these “slab” paintings in the exhibit: “Combinable Bank I and II” (1961) with its active red and chicken scheme; “Morning Mist” (1958) with its air-conditioned blooming background; and “Summer Bliss” (1960), which Hofmann gave to UC Berkeley in account of art assistant Worth Ryder, who had arrive him to advise in 1930.
Museum visitors accustomed with those color-block paintings may be afraid by Hofmann’s added abstruse works from the aftermost decade of his career. Blush ability be sponged assimilate the apparent or attending like acrylic awkward from a tube assimilate the canvas. A ample acreage of “black” reveals several aphotic shades. Paintings’ titles become added evocative: “Rubasse (A Beautiful Variety of Rock Crystal”) and “Ora Pro Nobis (Pray for Us.)”
The paintings “Fermented Soil” and “The Castle” bracket the exhibition in the aftermost gallery. They were included in Hofmann’s final abandoned exhibition in New York aloof weeks afore his afterlife in 1966. In a analysis of that arcade exhibit, the artist and art analyzer Bill Berkson wrote that in his aftermost decade Hofmann’s assignment “seemed like that of a ‘natural,’ a abstruse adolescent painter who discovers that painting is always accessible to him.”
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In this exhibit, Hofmann’s aftermost paintings attending as beginning and avant-garde as his first.
Through: July 21; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Berkeley Art Museum-Pacific Film Archive, 2155 Center St., Berkeley
Admission: $11-$13. 510-642-0808, bampfa.org.
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