Symposium: Hans Hofmann in a New Light
Leading authorities on the work of Hans Hofmann convene for a fresh look at the artist’s achievement in light of new scholarship. Participants are Lucinda Barnes, Norman Kleeblatt, Ellen G. Landau, and Michael Schreyach; Alexander Nemerov moderates.
Lucinda Barnes, BAMPFA senior curator emerita and organizer of the museum’s Hofmann retrospective, will provide an overview of Hofmann’s artistic development, with an emphasis on the revealing relation between the work of his formative and mature periods.
Curator, art historian, and critic Norman Kleeblatt will examine Hofmann’s transition in the 1940s from representation to pure abstraction. He will discuss how drip paintings such as Fantasia (1943) and related experimental works occupy a germinal place within Hofmann’s style as well as in the history of Abstract Expressionism. Kleeblatt was formerly chief curator at the Jewish Museum in New York.
Art historian and curator Ellen G. Landau will investigate private correspondence between Hofmann and a group of younger painters, including Mercedes Matter, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner, that provides insight into his personality, biography, and somewhat unusual artistic trajectory. New facts and ideas disclosed in rediscovered letters from the 1940s are pertinent for a fresh analysis of Hofmann’s unexpected segue from reliance on European precedent to a wholly original Abstract Expressionist style. Landau is Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emerita of the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University and author of numerous publications, including Reading Abstract Expressionism: Context and Critique.
Michael Schreyach, associate professor of art history at Trinity University, will consider a number of still-life paintings from the mid- to late 1930s that exemplify Hofmann’s sustained formal investigation of key pictorial conventions such as framing and point of view. Close visual analysis of these canvases helps reveal the relationship in Hofmann’s work between the medium’s traditional norms or “limits” and the artist’s individual “expression.” Schreyach is the author of Pollock’s Modernism, among other publications.
Alexander Nemerov, professor and chair of the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University, will moderate the discussion.