Miles McEnery Gallery is delighted to announce an exhibition of ink drawings by Hans Hofmann on view 2 February through 11 March 2023 at 520 West 21st Street. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated exhibition catalogue featuring an essay by Claire Frost.
Hans Hofmann is traditionally known for creating paintings that navigate the dynamics of color and form, and this exhibition revisits a selection of Hofmann’s works on paper completed during his journey from Europe to America, which were originally showcased at the Legion of Honor and the University of California in 1931. The drawings emphasize a reliance on abbreviated linear expressions to create pictorial space, and they register the immediate observations of Hofmann’s experiences in the South of France and the Bay Area.
Claire Frost remarks that “Hofmann’s mobility during his time in the West allowed him to experience a landscape that was also in the throes of transformation. Ryder, John Haley, and Erle Loran, all friends and former students of Hofmann’s, had studios in Point Richmond, an area just north of Berkeley that was then a mix of undeveloped shoreline and industry with access to the train tracks that ran along the bay. The mix of buildings and landscape that fill the sketches from California is indicative of the spaces in which Hofmann and his peers at UC Berkeley had an interest, and those spaces have been credited with playing an important role in Hofmann’s own move into abstraction.”
The drawings not only document the geographical movement of Hofmann’s travels, but also the flexibility and spontaneity afforded by the medium itself. Claire Frost writes, “The growing looseness of these select sketches from St. Tropez is amplified in his drawings of California landscapes, where one is struck by the fluidity of line and the quickly delineated forms that describe water, hills, buildings, and roads…as if the view might escape his sight if his hand paused too long.”
Hans Hofmann was born in Weissenburg, Germany in 1880. He began his education in Munich and later moved to Paris in 1904. There, Hofmann frequented the Café du Dome where he met the many artists, dealers, and intellectuals who gathered there. In 1914, the outbreak of World War I prevented Hofmann from returning to Paris, and in 1915 he opened his own art school in Munich, which quickly garnered an international reputation of excellence. In 1930, Hofmann traveled to the United States, and from 1930 to 1932 he was invited to teach at the University of California, Berkeley, and at the Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles.
In 1932, Hofmann moved to New York. He taught a drawing class at the Art Students League and in 1934—shortly after closing his school in Munich—he opened the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in New York. In 1935, Hofmann’s School additionally began to hold summer classes in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Hofmann became well known not only as an important artist of the time but also as an admired teacher—Helen Frankenthaler, Allan Kaprow, Lee Krasner, Louise Nevelson, Joan Mitchell, and Wolf Kahn were amongst his students. 1944 was a significant year for Hofmann as he was featured in four group exhibitions and notably had his first solo exhibition in New York at Peggy Guggenheim’s renowned Art of This Century Gallery.
During his lifetime, Hofmann’s work was the subject of exhibitions at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco (1931); University of California Berkeley’s Haviland Hall (1931); the Art of This Century Gallery, New York, NY (1944); the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts (1948); The Whitney Museum of American Art (1957); La Biennale di Venezia (1960); and The Museum of Modern Art (1963).
Hofmann’s work is in many permanent collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Musée de Grenoble, Grenoble, France; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel; and the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany.
Hofmann died in 1966 in New York at the age of 85.