Hans Hofmann: Circa 1950, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA



Photo by Kay Bell Reynal

Several works by legendary American abstract expressionist painter Hans Hofmann (1880-1966), never shown in a U.S. museum before, will debut this winter at The Rose Art Museum. An extraordinary body of work created by Hans Hofmann for the architect Josep Sert’s 1950 city plan called the Chimbote Project is the genesis for this exhibition.  The nine painting studies Hofmann produced for a series of murals in this Peruvian city form a concise and inspired example of the depth of Hofmann’s strengths as an abstract painter and modernist visionary. Hans Hofmann: Circa 1950 is curated by Michael Rush, the Henry and Lois Foster Director of the Rose, and New York-based guest curator Catherine Morris.

According to Rush, in the Chimbote paintings vibrant colors mix with a variety of forms (circular, angular and cruciform) and are so full of energy that the canvasses “virtually vibrate with a palpable physicality.” The year 1950 was an important one for Hofmann.  Not only does this period mark Hofmann’s full maturity as a painter, as he produced more than 50 paintings in 1950, but it also delineates one of his most productive periods as a writer.  In the post war years, the artist wrote a significant amount, revealing the formal and conceptual intricacies of his intellectual concerns and his creative processes.  Writings identified by the first line of the “typescripts,” as they are called include revelatory pieces such as “When I start to paint…,” dated April 1, 1950 and “In this moment…,” dated Nov. 25, 1950.

Hofmann also delivered an important talk at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum that year.  Entitled Post-Abstract Painting, 1950 France and America, Hofmann’s lecture was presented in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name that Rush says was characterized as the “most radical artist organized show of contemporary art in America since the 1913 Armory Show.” Artists in the exhibition included Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Ad Reinhardt, William Baziotes, Richard Pousette-Dart, and Theodoros Stamos, among others.  A reciprocal show, Réalités Nouvelles, took place simultaneously in Paris at the Palais des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris.

According to the curators, Hofmann, while clearly recognized as an important painter, has often been heralded more for his influence as a teacher than as an artist.  It is the intention of Hans Hofmann: Circa 1950 to situate Hofmann where he belongs: firmly at the center of the historically significant generation of abstract American artists.  While recognizing his broad influence as a teacher, Rush said, “it is our wish to place the work itself center stage, allowing it to be valued, indeed savored, as the product of an under recognized genius.

The exhibition will consist of the full suite of Chimbote paintings in the context of two dozen other important works from 1950, including “Push Pull,” “Spiral Nebulous,” “Magenta and Blue,” “Image in Green,” “Image in Blue,” “Image in Red,” and several works on paper. Lenders include the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Kemper Museum and numerous private collectors.

Accompanying the exhibition is a full color catalogue with essays by Rush, Morris, and invited scholar, Irving Sandler.