Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"Color is a plastic means of creating intervals." Hans Hofmann

I don't ever get tired of looking at these mash-ups of color, texture, style and visual complexity. It's surprising to learn that Hofmann had already taught in America for twenty plus years before painting most of the works he's most famous for. He was 80 when he painted this -- in and of itself inspiring.

In class, I recall my instructor, Franklyn Liegel, quoting Hofmann and advising us to go for "bold fragmentation." I had no idea what he was talking about, but I dutifully wrote it down. (At the time we were tearing down two rooms and building on a few more while living in it, complete with 3 kids under 8 -- fragmentation should have been familiar.)

I don't know if artists coming out of art school today view him as a relic of the past, but I do see now that an interesting tension arises when you separate elements to be enlarged upon or made more visually complex -- and then go to work to bring them back into unity. I think Matisse said something along these lines, but I'll have to look it up.

So I'm still working at this. It helps to cover up most of the painting with brown paper to isolate the area and focus on just one section. I try to stop worrying about how each area will work against the rest of the painting, and instead, follow Hofmann's lead in playing with color relationships, textures, and using overlapping shapes to create depth.

Nevermind that I still don't quite understand his statement that"any line placed on the canvas is already the fifth." Shouldn't have quit those piano lessons. Is he saying that a line adds a harmonic component just by its being there?

What do you think?
Do you like his paintings as much as I do? Does he seem like, as one critic described him, a masterful conductor of competing elements or a painter who is too "loud" and needs modulating?? Above left is In the Wake of the Hurricane, 1960.

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