DRAWINGS FROM THE HANS HOFMANN SCHOOL OF ART

Drawings from the Hans Hofmann School of Art, a virtual exhibition of drawings created between 1938 and 1954 in Hans Hofmann’s figure drawing classes can now be viewed online on the ACME Fine Art website.

Hofmann is considered by many to be the foremost teacher of modern painting and drawing technique in the twentieth century. The list of artists who studied with him at his Schools of Fine Art in New York City and in Provincetown Massachusetts contains many of the century’s most well recognized names. ACME Fine Art’s gallery director, David Cowan, has assembled a group of more than a dozen superb drawings by well-known and not-so-well known artists who participated in Hofmann’s figure drawing classes. The artists whose work will be included in the exhibition are: William Freed, John Grillo, Myrna Harrison, Seong Moy, Lillian Orlowsky, Haynes Ownby and Steve Wheeler.

Hofmann’s notion of “plasticity” was one of the primary principles of his theory of modernism. He wrote in his essay The Resurrection of the Plastic Arts that plasticity means “to bring the picture surface to ‘automatic’ plastic response.” This “plastic response” was one of the fundamental aspects of the figure drawing exercise, and this important teaching tool or “exercise” was one used by Hofmann consistently throughout his teaching career. Haynes Ownby -who studied with Hofmann in the early 1950s- described Hofmann’s concept of plasticity by saying, “Plasticity in his theory refers to the lively movement of compositional flat areas toward and from the picture plane, resulting in continuous movement and vitality.” Continuous movement and vitality are certainly hallmarks of the drawings chosen for ACME Fine Art’s virtual exhibition.

Hofmann insisted that all of the drawings be done in charcoal in a 25 x 19″ format. Despite the uniformity of medium and format, the resulting drawings are surprisingly varied. In most cases they reveal early signs that connect directly to the unique expressions that can be seen in each of the artist’s mature later work. The aspect of drawing as a teaching exercise is clearly revealed in a number of the drawings when one sees a diagrammatic sketch by Hofmann outlined in the corner of the sheet. As one might expect, some of the drawings are bold and powerful, while others are lyrically expressed; some are directly, spontaneously conveyed, and others are carefully composed and rendered. What is common to all is the fresh revelation of the modern spirit of each of the artists directly translated and graphically demonstrated.

The works featured in Drawings from the Hans Hofmann School of Art are available to be viewed at the gallery by appointment.

 

LESTER JOHNSON: In Memoriam

Oil Paintings Created Between 1959 and 1971

19 March – 30 April 2011

ACME Fine Art’s third solo exhibition of the work of Lester Johnson will be a memorial to the artist, who passed away late last spring. Johnson was a immensely talented artist who became a primary force in the development of the Figurative Expressionist movement in the second half of the 20th century, and in his position in the Art and Architecture Department at Yale University, he was a dedicated and thoughtful educator of the next generation of artists. LESTER JOHNSON: IN MEMORIAM will be open for viewing from Saturday, 19 March to Saturday, 30 April 2011. ACME Fine Art will host an opening reception on the afternoon of Saturday, 19 March from 2:00 to 5:00. A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue is available through the gallery.

The artwork selected for the exhibition touches on phases of Johnson’s artistic history. The exhibition will be organized as a small-scale retrospective, featuring eighteen important paintings from all phases of this prodigious artist’s more than six-decade-long career. All of the paintings, regardless of period or scale, are bold and vigorously expressive, and they demonstrate the poetic virtuosity and power that became Lester Johnson’s hallmark.

Lester Johnson was one of the relative handful of avant-garde artists who abandoned non-objective painting in the 1950s in order to harness the power of the human figure as a primary vehicle for artistic self-expression. Today Johnson is recognized as one of the most important and influential painters of his generation.

Since his first solo exhibition at New York’s Artists Gallery in 1951, Johnson’s work has been featured in more than 100 solo exhibitions, and included in important group exhibitions at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Whitney Museum of American Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to name just a few. Lester Johnson’s work is in the permanent public collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University.

Speaking about his own work Johnson once offered the following: “There is no balance in my paintings because balance seems to me to be static. Life, which I try to reflect in my paintings is dynamic…. To me my paintings are action paintings –paintings that move across the canvas, paintings that do not get stuck, but flow like time.” To which the noted critic and art historian Dore Ashton added: “And so they did.”

In his essay titled Lester Johnson: A Leading Figurative Expressionist, Charles Giuliano writes, “Lester was striving to find the essence of universal man. The details and specifics failed to engage him. The figure was a metaphor for the turmoil and conflict flowing through him. The resultant works were among the most potent conundrums of his generation.” Mr. Giuliano’s essay is published in its entirety in the exhibition catalogue, and he will be speaking about Lester Johnson in a Gallery Talk at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, 9 April 2011 at ACME Fine Art.

ACME Fine Art is located at 38 Newbury Street, Boston, MA 02116. Gallery Hours are 11:00 to 5:30 Tuesday through Saturday. The entire exhibition will be viewable online after 18 March at http://www.acmefineart.com. Exhibition catalogues are available for purchase online or by contacting the gallery.