Posts Tagged ‘Hans Hofmann’

Blackpaint 292

September 5, 2011

Edward Lucie-Smith

I’ve just acquired a used copy of his “Movements in Art since 1945” (Thames and Hudson, 1970); I’ve no idea if it’s still in print – it would have been updated, of course – but it contains a whole load of colour illustrations of paintings I’ve never seen before, in a beautiful matt finish, much nicer that the usual glossy.  Some listed below:

  • Gorky, the Betrayal (47);
  • Hofmann, the Rising Moon (64) – the characteristic “push-pull” rectangles on a red background;
  •  De Kooning, Woman and Bicycle (52-3) – ELS links De Kooning’s sharp-toothed women to Warhol’s later Marilyns;
  • Heron, Manganese in Deep Violet (67) – glowing, of course;
  • Sam Francis, Blue on a Point (58);
  • Asger Jorn, you Never Know (66) – swirling yellow, blue, red;
  • Appel, Women and Birds (58) – swirling blue and red, a little less yellow than Jorn;
  • De Stael, Agrigente (54) – eye-burning, “abstract” landscape…

and loads more.

Some of his remarks are interesting, given the time at which he is writing; he says that Hockney’s then current works of the California, lawns and pools,”Bigger Splash” phase lack the irony and bite of the earlier, cartoon boys period.  He yokes Balthus and Bacon together as figurative outsiders, dealing in comparable, transgressive or shocking images (surely Bacon is by far the superior of the two).  He notes the intriguing mixture of nostalgia and modernity in the work of Pop artists, such as Peter Blake, and the way that British Post -Painterly abstractionists like John Walker were still prepared to use perspective in their works, whereas such  use was banished from the Americans’ work.

He has a 1962 quotation from Duchamp, regarding the “Neo-Dadaists”, which is simple, but hugely important:  “This Neo-Dada, which they call New Realism, Pop Art, Assemblage,vetc., is an easy way out and lives on what Dada did.  When I discovered ready-mades I thought to discourage aesthetics.  In Neo-Dada they have taken my ready-mades and found aesthetic beauty in them.  I threw the bottle rack and the urinal into their faces as a challenge and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty” (ELS. p.11).  What better expression is there for the problem I was on about in the last blog – how you make things look “good” in a painting by making them look like something somebody has done before?  There’s the answer – paint something which looks crap, then do it over and over again until you get used to it and it becomes a style….

St. Martin’s MA show

Beautifully produced catalogue for this, “on sale in the foyer”, and only two quid.  Here are some exhibits I remember:

Helen Sorensen, Peas and Music – green shoots from a huge soil bed, surrounded by speakers that weren’t playing when we visited; oddly touching, for some reason;

Oliver Guy-Watkins – don’t know title – a stairwell and whole section of basement smothered with fake snow; reminded me of the inside of my un-defrosted fridge;

Elsa Philippe, the Conductor – a video in which the artist (if it is she) resembles a member of the Incredible String Band in one of their early 70’s entertainments;

Laura Degenhardt, Thames Boat – didn’t see this in the flesh, but liked it in the catalogue for it’s painterly qualities – but I’ve just noticed the dimensions; 20*25 cms!  That’s about a postcard, isn’ it?

 

In the Dark Australia

Blackpaint

5/09/11

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Blackpaint 267

April 15, 2011

Hans Hofmann

Yes, one “f”, two “ns” – I think I’ve been mis-spelling it for a year or so; maybe not.  Anyway, I’ve bought a stunning book about works he did in 1950, a pivotal year for him.  He wrote an essay or article entitled “When I start to paint..”, which is worth quoting from, I think:

  • When I start to paint, I want to forget all I know about painting.
  • What I would hate most is to repeat myself…
  • As a painter, I deny any rule, any method and any theory.

Because Hofmann is famous for his influence as a (highly theoretical) teacher and the development of his famous “push-pull” praxis, these are perhaps surprising statements – but they are not contradictory, since he also says “(While painting) I take for granted that my knowledge has become second nature”.  The paintings are great, swirling patterns of bright colour, in combinations you would think would hurt your eyes, yet highly structured and textured; the text describes their surfaces as open and breathing.  They are like the paintings of Appel and Jorn in this respect.

The real beauty, however, is in the close-up detail extracts.  It’s only £23.00 odd; “Hans Hofmann, circa 1950”, the Rose Art Museum 2009.  I’ve not seen it anywhere  but Waterstones in Piccadilly; only one copy there, I think – and I’ve got it.

Cork Street Galleries

Some terrific stuff in these posh galleries at the moment; Green Park tube, walk through Burlington Arcade past the Royal Academy and there you are.  Hofmann’s comment about not repeating himself very apposite in several cases, however.

John Hoyland

Acrylic on cotton duck, mostly big, square-ish works, 50*50 ins maybe?  Almost fluorescent colours; turquoise, raspberry, acid yellows, purple – and some with thick, glabrous centres of black and brown, like sawn-off tree trunks coated with lumpy creosote; circular splotches of dazzling white, pink, red with coronas of tiny splatter marks.  On some, little flattened discs of multi-coloured acrylic, like trodden-in plasticene.  Electric colours, spacey titles.  Individually, striking and exciting – collectively, the impact drains away.  You need to hang a Hoyland between a muddy Auerbach and a Lanyon, say.

Harold Cohen at Bernard Jacobson Gallery

Again, the vivid acid colours;  patches, snakes, rivers, bent elbows of paint, dashing about all over the canvas.  And again, the cumulative effect of twenty or so is less than that of one big one, seen from the street.  Cohen invented the AARON computer painting program, but these are a sort of collaboration between the computer, which does the basic pattern with inkjet, and the painter, who finishes the work by hand.  For some reason, that seems better to me.

Picasso at Alan Cristea Gallery

Black, grey and white “Portrait Lithographs”.  Fantastic, of course, but with the exception of three done in a rougher, more textured style, very similar variations on a theme.  Less is more, then, is today’s thought.

The Seventh Seal

Watching this the other night, I was struck by how Japanese it looked (and sounded);  the landscape, the riders, the tumblers, the wagons, the bits of music, the mediaeval setting – could have been Kurosawa.  Then again, he was reckoned to have very Western sensibilities, I think.  They were working about the same time.

Ai Weiwei

Has he been released yet?  It seems incredible that they can just drag him off somewhere and lock him up for “economic crimes” – medieval really.  He must be one of the world’s best-known artists.  Maybe if the Chinese government read this, they’ll realise their error and release him.

Blackpaint

15.04.11

PS – Saturday.  Last night, visited the Miro exhibition at Tate Modern, of which more in next blog.  Ai Weiwei’s sunflower seeds still on display, but not a word about his arrest – no petition, posters, nothing.  Shameful, I think; is the management afraid of offending Chinese visitors?

Blackpaint 45

January 21, 2010

Painting

I’ve rung some changes in my paintings over the last couple of weeks;  I’m doing them landscape instead of portrait – big change for me – and I’ve been using more big slashes and masses of black paint.  i’m wondering if it’s because of the name I’m using for this blog.  Anyway, there is a sort of device or pattern which keeps coming through, in thr form of something like car side mirrors attached to great curved, or slightly curving, black supports or arms.  I’ve got four of these around me in the room now.  Two of them are basically black, red, white and blue-grey, two are  black, yellow, yellow ochre and blue grey.  Two are relatively cleanly painted and drawn – the other two much rougher, edges blurred, backgrounds sort of scraped and fuzzed.

Reading back over this, I see I’ve referred to a “sort of device or pattern which keeps coming through”.  That’s a real “Expressionist” way of looking at painting, as if the painter were some kind of medium, brushing and splatting and scrubbing away at a surface until gradually some pre-existing organic form emerges.  This is bollocks of course – there is no Platonic form floating around out there in the ether that chooses an artist and allows him/her to  fix it on canvas or paper, like a brass rubbing. 

Maybe, though, there are patterns which emerge during the process of painting that are determined by subconscious mental and physical attributes of the artist – the arc of a curve, say, or a preference to leave a section of the canvas unoccupied.

Or maybe you do something you like and copy it over and over, convincing yourself it’s different each time.

Hans Hoffmann

Just been reading about the above in Taschen “Abstract Expressionism”;  one thing that I liked –  he squeezed the paint directly from the tube to onto the canvas, thus (according to Greenberg) inventing the “heavy surface” in abstract art.  I tend to chuck it on from pots and then mix and work it in situ too.  I can only wish, as with so many others, my results were as good as his.

Listening to Chicago Bound by Jimmy Rodgers:

“I didn’t need no steam heat by my bed,

Little girl I loved kept me cherry red,

But I left that town,

Yeah I left that town,

When I left St.Louis, well, you know I was Chicago bound”.

Blackpaint

21.o1.10