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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 2-4 times a year. New shows: "events;" hard copy rates & how to support the online edition: "works."

 

FRESH AIR ON 121st STREET: HOFMANN AT DAVID RICHARD

George Hofmann, Is This the Blue of the Aegean?, 2008-09.  Acrylic on linen, 40 x 32".  Artwork © George Hofmann. Courtesy of David Richard Gallery. Photo by Yao Zu Lu

Far from the madding crowd, at 211 East 121st Street in Manhattan, one may find "George Hofmann," at David Richard (through February 28).   These eleven canvases, though done between 2008 and 2010, still have an airy freshness that renders them welcome to our jaded town.

 

Actually, I'd seen most of them when I visited Hofmann in 2009.  At that time, he was living in Albany. I only wrote about this visit in a special supplement that I was publishing at that time for my print edition subscribers.  Herewith I give an abbreviated version of that report. I apologize to my print edition subscribers for repeating myself, but maybe after ten years they won't remember what I wrote all that well anyway.  

 

Hofmann had moved to Albany from New York City to be with Patty Ross, an Albany-based arts administrator whom he'd met while serving successively as an arts administrator himself at the Triangle Artists' Workshop and the Francis J. Greenberger Foundation, founder of the Art Omi artists' workshop in Ghent, NY.

 

This was only the final phase of Hofmann's long and distinguished career as an art teacher and arts administrator. Earlier, he had taught printmaking, painting and/or drawing at C.W. Post on Long Island, then at Pratt, and finally at Hunter College in Manhattan, from which he retired from a full professorship in 2002.

 

He had originally applied for a job at Post because Jules Olitski was teaching there, and he so much admired Olitski.   He'd only seen Olitski's work in reproduction while he himself was studying art in what was then West Germany (as the child of German immigrants to the U.S., he speaks German fluently).  Since he was particularly skilled in printmaking, and Olitski wanted to learn printmaking, he had little trouble landing the job at Post.

 

It was during this period, in the early '60s, that he also saw work by Noland, Louis and Frankenthaler – and met Clement Greenberg. Olitski had left C.W. Post to teach at Bennington, and a new chapter in Hofmann's life began.  In his VW, he would pick up a) 5-gallon cans of Magna from Leonard Bocour's paint factory in Manhattan, and b)Greenberg, then drive both paint & critic up to Olitski & Co. in Bennington.

 

As Ross has died, and Hofmann has family in Washington, DC, he has since relocated there.  He has an apartment on Connecticut Avenue with a spare bedroom to paint in.

 

He's had many solo exhibitions over the years, and I've covered a handful of them in this column.  The only thing I can say with certainty is that every show has been and I'm sure will continue to be different.  Hofmann is a man of many moods, but the current show, with its pale, seemingly impulsive series of washes looks particularly good in the handsome and expansive space of the David Richard Gallery. 

 

"Is This the Blue of the Aegean?" is especially winsome, with its large, slanting area of deep blue on the left played off against lighter sweeps of pink and aqua on the right

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