Los Angeles

Hans Hofmann

Santa Barbara Museum Of Art

An exhibition of 14 paintings and 3 drawings, dating from 1952 through 1962, gathered from California collections. The major impetus for the exhibition was a gift by the painter of one of his own works to the Santa Barbara Museum. Hofmann’s name is one that is constantly involved in any discussion of post World War II painting, and even though the exhibition is restricted in size and to a limited phase of the painter’s career, it is still an exciting and revealing experience which one hopes will be repeated and expanded in future showings of Hofmann’s work on the West Coast.

Clement Greenberg, Frederick S. Wight and others have pointed out that his paintings are difficult to appraise, for they are an expression of a “virtuoso of invention.” In this exhibition one may discern almost the whole gamut of technical devices—that of action painting, the utilization of the accidental, etc., which have come to typify our present scene. His work also seems to express a strange combination of intellectual control and what on the surface appears to be an unbridled emotionalism. The sensual emotionalism manifested in his “expressionistic” use of color, occasional thick impasto application of pigment, in the occurrence of drips, and so forth—are, to one degree or another, rigidly controlled. Generally this control is expressed through a classical cubist vocabulary. This is especially apparent in the large canvas Simplex Munditiis (1962) which was given to the Museum. Other works such as Green Vortex (1961; Collection F. S. Wight) reveal less of this control, while still other paintings contain echoes of Fauvism, of Klee, and of Guston. That he has been able to absorb so many facets of 20th century painting himself is a significant factor that has enabled Hofmann to become a major innovator whose contribution, especially to Post-1945 painting, has been far-reaching and profound.

David Gebhard