Monday, May 4, 2015

Walls of Color: The Murals of Hans Hoffman

Walls of Color: The Murals of Hans Hofmann, the first ever exhibition to focus on the artist’s varied and under-appreciated public mural projects, opened at the Bruce Museum, Greenwich CT on May 2 and continues through September 6, 2015. The show will then travel to The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University, Miami, FL (October 10, 2015 to January 3, 2016), and to the Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC (January 22to April 10, 2016).

“Hans Hofmann is famed for his dynamic approach to color,” says New York University Professor of Modern Art Kenneth Silver, also an Adjunct Curator of Art at the Bruce Museum, and the curator of this exhibition. “He was a towering figure among New York School painters. He was also the most important teacher and theoretician of the Abstract Expressionist movement.”

The centerpiece of Walls of Color: The Murals of Hans Hofmann is nine oil studies by Hofmann, each seven feet tall, for the redesign of the Peruvian city of Chimbote. This was Hofmann’s extraordinary collaboration, in 1950,with Catalan architect José Luis Sert –the man who designed the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair in 1937, for which Picasso’s great mural Guernica was conceived. Although never realized, this visionary project was to include a huge mosaic wall –a freestanding bell tower in the town center –designed by Hofmann, which would incorporate not only his own highly evolved notions of Abstract Expressionist visual dynamics, but also forms symbolic of traditional Peruvian culture, religion and history. 

Although now nearly forgotten, Hofmann also created two huge public murals in Manhattan. In 1956, for the developer William Kaufman, and in collaboration with the noted pioneer modernist architect William Lescaze, Hofmann created an astonishing, brilliantly colored mosaic mural, wrapped around the elevator bank in the main entrance hall of the office building at 711 Third Avenue. Two years later, in 1958, commissioned by the New York City Board of Education, Hofmann created a 64-foot long and 11-foot tall mosaic-tile mural for the High School of Printing (now the High School of Graphic Arts Communication) on West 49th Street. 

“We are goingto be bringing these large-scale, stunning works to life within the walls of the Bruce Museum via superb and varied painted studies, mosaic maquettes, photos, and ephemera –as well as studies for a mural for an unrealized New York apartment house of the same period –which will show us not only Hofmann’s working methods, but also just how significant these murals were to the development of his art in general,”says Kenneth Silver. “The final section of the exhibition will demonstrate, by means of several key later paintings, the crucial influence of the mural projects on Hofmann’s final and brilliant flowering as an easel painter. This show will reveal the power of Hofmann’s painting for a new generation.”

A scholarly catalogue has been created for the exhibition, with a foreword fromt he Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust, and essays by Curator Kenneth Silver and Mary McLeod, Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University.


Credit for all images:
Works by Hans Hofmann used with permission of the Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust

1 Hans Hofmann Awakening, 1947 Oil on canvas, 59 ¼x 40 ¼in.Private Collection Photograph by Paul Mutino

2 Hans Hofmann The Cross (Sketch for Mosaic), 1950 Oil on paper mounted on board, 84 x 35 ½in.Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust Photograph by Doug Young

3 Hans Hofmann Mural Fragment (Chimbote), 1950 Oil on panel mounted on board, 83 x 35 ¾in.Renate,  Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust Photograph by Doug Young

4 Hans Hofmann Chimbote Mural Fragment of Part II, 1950 Oil on board, 84 ¼ x 36 ¼in.Renate,  Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust Photograph by Doug Young

5 Hans Hofmann Sketch for Mural 711, 1956 Oil on board, 52 x 31in.Private Collection Photograph by Doug Young

6 Hans Hofmann Mosaic for Apartment House Sketch No. 14, 1956 Gouache and collage on cardboard, 39 x 22 in.Collection of Deborah Goodman Davis Photograph by Thomas Quigley

7 Hans Hofmann Sketch for Mosaic, 1957 Oil and collage on cardboard, 20 x 76 ½ in. Private Collection Photograph by Paul Mutino

8  Hans Hofmann Maquette for Mural at the New York School of Printing, 1957 Mosaic tile set in concrete, 7 ¾ x 28 x ¾ in.Collection of Charles and Elise Brown Photograph by Paul Mutino

9 Hans Hofmann Studio No. II in Blue, 1954 Oil on canvas, 48 x 84in.Private Collection© 2008 Christie's Images Limited

10 Hans Hofmann Lonely Journey, 1965Oil on canvas, 50 x 40 in.The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (1989.397), Gift of Renate Hofmann, 1989 Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY

About the Bruce Museum

The Bruce Museum is a museum of art and science and is located at One Museum Drive in Greenwich, Connecticut. The Museum is open Tuesday through Sundayfrom 10 am to 5 pm; closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for students up to 22 years, $6 for seniors and free for members and children less than five years. Individual admission is free on Tuesday. Free on-site parking is available and the Museum is accessible to individuals with disabilities. For additional information, call the Bruce Museum at (203) 869-0376 or visit the website at