Miami welcomes “Walls of Color: The Murals of Hans Hofmann” for Art Basel season

12 Oct

From left to right: Dr. Kenneth Silver, Jordana Pomeroy, & Jack Coyle. Photo: WorldRedEye’s Alejo Chavarria

MIAMI FLA.- A riot of color roared in Miami to usher in Art Basel season as the exhibition Walls of Color: The Murals of Hans Hofmann opened October 10 at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU, the Smithsonian affiliate in Miami (on view through January 3). This exhibition is the first-ever to showcase a vital aspect of the mid-century Modern Master’s art, his large-scale public mural projects. Nine towering oil studies (each seven feet tall) are the show’s centerpieces, created by Hofmann for the famed 1950 project to re-design the Peruvian city of Chimbote (Hofmann’s visionary collaboration with Catalan architect Josep Lluís Sert that was never realized). The Chimbote Series and related architectural drawings and studies are presented thanks to the Trustees of the Renate, Hans and Maria Hofmann Trust. The exhibition also features several key paintings leading up to and following his murals. Hofmann is recognized worldwide as a leader in the evolution of Abstract Expressionism, both as an artist and as a celebrated teacher who influenced a generation of America’s most distinguished artists. “The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color,” said Hans Hofmann.

Hundreds attended the opening reception, which featured a standing-room-only lecture by Dr. Kenneth Silver (New York University Professor of Modern Art and Curator of this exhibition that originated at the Bruce Museum), part of FIU’s Stephen and Dorothea Green Critics’ Lecture Series.

“Hans Hofmann was the linchpin for Abstract Expressionism, and the Frost Art Museum FIU is thrilled to bring this first-ever show about Hofmann’s mural works to Miami for Art Basel season,” said Dr. Jordana Pomeroy, the museum’s director. “Miami’s historic MiMo and Art Deco architectural districts and the recent contemporary mural movement in Wynwood are hallmarks of Miami’s success as a cultural destination. Walls of Color will provide valuable context for the history of collaboration between architects, artists, and developers. This aspect of Hofmann’s career will shed light on the wide-ranging ambitions of one of the most seminal artists of the 20th century.”

The German-born American artist (1880-1966) spent most of his life teaching in New York and Provincetown where he nurtured some of the most esteemed artists of the 20th century including: Lee Krasner, Larry Rivers, Joan Mitchell, Red Grooms, Ray Eames and Helen Frankenthaler. His push/pull spatial theories (the interdependent relationships between form, color and space) and innovative usage of color revolutionized the Abstract Expressionist movement. In 2015, Hofmann’s artwork Auxerre (1960) sold for $6,325,000 at auction at Christie’s New York, establishing a new world record for the artist.

The exhibition at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU features additional works exclusively on view only in Miami. These include the gouache-on-paper Out of this World (from the Frost Art Museum’s collection), the oil-on-panel Provincetown Docks (loaned by Miami-based collectors Drs. Mark and Elizabeth Rogers), and two other works-on-paper from the Frost’s collection, All Art Needs (Is) The Sperm Of France, and Untitled. The exhibition features a total of 36 artworks, featuring paintings, works on paper, collage, sketches, a light box, maquette and architectural rendering.

Walls of Color: The Murals of Hans Hofmann is anchored by nine large-scale oil studies that Hofmann created during his collaboration with architect Josep Lluís Sert, designer of the famed Spanish Pavilion for the 1937 Paris World’s Fair which housed Picasso’s iconic Guernica mural. Although the project did not come to fruition due to political upheaval in Peru, the original conception included an enormous mosaic wall with a freestanding bell tower comingling Abstract Expressionist and Peruvian motifs.

This exhibition also explores two of Hofmann’s glass-tiled public murals located in Manhattan that have been largely overlooked until now. The two mid-century collaborations brought to light are: one with developer William Kaufman and modernist architect William Lescaze, a boldly colorful mosaic wrapped around four sides of the elevator bank in the entry hall of the office building at 711 Third Avenue; and the other, commissioned by the New York City Board of Education, is a 64 foot long and 11 foot tall mosaic-tile mural on West 49th Street, currently the site of the High School of Graphic Arts and Communication. Both may still be viewed today in New York. These murals are represented in the exhibition at the Frost via photos, educational materials, a light box and a ceramic maquette.

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