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Breezy Vitality in Hofmann Drawings  By Cate McQuaid 

Hans Hofmann, the great abstract expressionist and teacher, was a master of tensions. He taught his students in New York and Provincetown about the “push and pull” of composition: The contrasts in color relationships, juxtapositions of forms, and the conflict between spatial illusion and flat surface. Hofmann was a great proponent of intuitive, automatic drawing,yet he would have students labor for weeks over a single still life.

“Hans Hofmann Early Drawings,” now up at ACME Fine Art, demonstrates the vitality of his line. Executed with a matchstick dipped in ink, and sometimes made on the fly in his roadster, the drawings come across as breezy finger exercises. The more you look at them, though, the more you see.

A voluptuous leaf takes center stage in “Untitled Sunflower.” The plant, with its sinewy stalk and lolling leaves, nearly bursts off the page, pushing into the extreme foreground, underscored by smoky shadows on either side. Yet it takes a moment to find the blossom: a spiky, awkward starburst atop a lean stem, seeming to float like a setting sun amid the far distant hills.

Hofmann simplifies forms in a way that makes them, strangely, at once idiosyncratic and archetypal. He dramatically telescopes space, jamming great distances into small frames. In “Untitled Landscape,” for instance, the steering wheel of his roadster sits in the foreground, and Provincetown Harbor stretches out at a steep angle in the distance.

He drew the sunflower in 1943. Most of the works here were made in the 1930s, soon after Hofmann emigrated from Germany. He was in his 50s, so to call these drawings “early” seems a misnomer. But it was here that he made his name as a painter and teacher of abstract expressionism, an American wave that moved the focus of contemporary art from Paris to New York.

A small pendant exhibition, “Figure by Four,” features drawings made by students in Hofmann’s classes. Lillian Orlowsky’s “Figure Drawing 01″ shows the way he taught cubist figuration, blocking the body out in angles and volumes; this one pivots around vertical and diagonal axes. The teacher has mapped out an instruction in a box on the upper left; you can see its echo in Orlowsky’s sharp angles, and in the small circle at one knee.

 There are a couple of black and red gouaches here, but Hofmann’s legendary strident colors are mostly missing. What we get instead, in his drawings and those of his students, is a relentless and lively investigation of structure, space, and form, pushed and pulled in ways that make them spring off the page.


HANS HOFMANN Early Drawings

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ACME Fine Art will conclude the gallery’s 2013 season with an important exhibition that consists of a group of sixteen rare drawings by one of Abstract Expressionism’s quintessential teachers and practitioners: Hans Hofmann. The exhibition will open with a reception from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. on 1 November 2013 in conjunction with SoWa Boston’s First Friday festivities, and it will run through Saturday 11 January 2014.

The drawings featured in the exhibition were created by Hofmann between the late 1930s and the mid-1940s when he was teaching at his eponymously named schools in New York and Provincetown. Most of the featured drawings were made in Provincetown and many are, in fact, plein air landscape sketches of Truro and Provincetown that depict dune, town, railroad, and harbor scenes. Some were drawn from Hofmann’s well used roadster, and cleverly capture the car’s steering wheel and windshield in the foreground. Other drawings are figure based abstractions drawn from the model. All of them brilliantly manage to bridge the gap between Hofmann’s cubist roots and the then avant-garde Abstract Expressionist movement that at the time had yet to be definitively named. All of the drawings are an education for the eye, and the vast majority of them have never been exhibited before. Regardless of their age, this group of drawings –both singularly and collectively- convey the spontaneity of expression and the vitality of spirit that are the hallmarks of Hofmann’s most important work.

Concurrently in the gallery’s Front Room, ACME Fine Art will present an outstanding small group of figure drawings by distinguished mid-century artists Seong Moy, Haynes Ownby, Myrna Harrison, William Freed and Lillian Orlowsky that were made under Hans Hofmann’s tutelage between 1937 and 1952. The exhibition is titled Figure by Four. Each drawing making up the exhibition was made in charcoal on the 25 x 19 inch paper that was a common format for students in the Hofmann program. The stylistic diversity of this group of works demonstrates both Hofmann’s ability to customize his critique in dialogue with students, and the ability of these particular artist/students to respond successfully in their own unique voices.

The exhibitions: HANS HOFMANN Early Drawings and Figure by Four will both be on view in the gallery from 1 November to 11 January and will also be on view on- line at For further information about the artists or the exhibitions please contact the gallery at 617.585.9551 or ACME Fine Art is now located at 1Thayer Street at 450 Harrison Avenue in Boston’s South End. Free parking is available. Gallery hours are 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and by appointment at your convenience.


ACME FINE ART Will Be Open This Weekend for South End Open Studios

south-end-oepn-studiosPlease join us this weekend for South End Open Studios, Saturday & Sunday September 21 & 22 11am – 6 pmACME Fine Art will be open along with over 120 artists studios, indie designers and crafts people, who will be selling their wares outdoors at the Sowa Open Market. This is SoWa’s biggest weekend of the season!!

ACME Fine Art’s exhibitions: CHARLES LITTLER: 1950s and 1960s and Big Paintings, Small Group will be on view through Saturday, 19 October 2013. The entire exhibition is online at


Picture 065New gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and by appointment. For further information about the exhibition, artist, or the gallery please call 617.585.9551 or contact us at

Boris Margo

Boris Margo (1902-1995)

Polytechnik Art School, USSR
Pavel Filonov School, USSR

Roerich Museum, 1932 (solo)
Cincinnati Art Museum, 1939
Art of This Century, Peggy Guggenheim, 1943
Critics Choice, Cincinnati, 1945
Whitney Museum of American Art, 1946-66
National Academy of Design, 1946
Library of Congress, 1944, 1946
Armory Show NY, 1945
American University, 1946
Betty Parsons Gallery, 1947-62
San Francisco Art Museum, 1944
Art Institute of Chicago, 1947 (prize)
Brooklyn Museum, 1947 (retrospective)- 68
Carnegie Institute, 1952
Corcoran Gallery of Art, biennials 1947-63
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, 1962
Venice Biennales, 1956, 1970
Sao Paulo Biennale
Associated American Artists

MacDowell Colony fellow

Museum of Modern Art
Collections Continued:
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Art Institute of Chicago
Addison Gallery of American Art
National Museum of American Art
Brooklyn Museum
Sao Paulo Museum of Art
Provincetown Art Association and Museum







James Gahagan

(1927 – 1999)

Hans Hoffman School of Fine Arts
Goddard College, Plainfield, VT
School of Printing Trades, New York

Longview Purchase Grant, 1959
Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Award, 1984

Selected Exhibitions
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia, PA, 1954
James Gallery (founding member) NYC, 1954 (solo), 1955 (solo), 1956, 1957
Sun Gallery, Provincetown, MA 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959
H.C.E. Gallery, Provincetown, MA, 1956, 1957
Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown MA, 1956, 1978, 1981,
1990, 2000, 2001
United Nations Sponsored Traveling Exhibit to 64 Nations, 1957
University of California Berkeley, 1960
Museum of Modern Art, NYC, 1960
Chrysler Museum, Provincetown, MA, 1962
Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC, 1963
Bradford College, MA, 1967 (solo)
Bundy Museum, Waitsfield, VT, 1967 (solo), 1976
Bard College, 1968 (solo)
The Fleming Museum, Burlington, VT, 1976
Everson Museum, Syracuse, NY, 1977
Goddard College, VT, 1978, 1970, 1951 (solo)
Tirca Karlis Gallery, Provincetown, MA, 1981, 1982 (solo), 1983, 1984 (solo),
1985 (solo), 1986 (solo)
Dibden Gallery, Johnson College, VT, 1984 (solo)
Vermont Council on the Arts, Governors Pavilion Building, Montpelier VT, 1989
The Hillyer Gallery, Smith College, 1994
Clarke Galleries, West Palm Beach, FL, 2000 (solo)
James Gahagan & Hank Jensen, Provincetown Art Association and Museum, 2002
James Gahagan at Mid-Century, ACME Fine Art, Boston, MA, 2008

Selected Collections
Metropolitan Museum Archives, New York, NY
The Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA
Berkeley Museum, University of California, Berkeley, CA
Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, MA
Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis MA


Following in Hofmann’s footsteps, James Gahagan was an accomplished painter as well as a beloved teacher and mentor to others. Inspired by nature, his sensitivity to color relationships and spatial dynamics made him one of the most skillful American colorists.

Born in Brooklyn in 1927, Gahagan claimed that his serious interest in art did not manifest until he was in high school, though some of his earliest memories included selling large scale, hand-drawn renditions of Disney characters to his family members for twenty-five cents.

Gahagan’s ideas about color challenged the accepted norms of the day, even at an early age. Arguing emotionally with a high school art teacher about his use of “invented colors” in a landscape painting, he defended his artistic license: “To me it just seemed the natural thing to do. I just perceived color as beautiful and used it freely, even as I tried to capture the scene I was viewing or imagining.”

Gahagan was one of the many artists in the late 1940s that were able to pursue their studies thanks to the G.I Bill. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he attended Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont (1947-51) where he studied with two former Hofmann students. He soon moved to New York, where he himself began attending the Hans Hofmann School of Art and became involved with the then-burgeoning abstract movement. His visual vocabulary developed during his years as Associate Director of the Hofmann School and as Hofmann’s assistant during the creation of two major mosaic murals in New York City.

A staunch activist for artists’ rights, Gahagan was a motivating force among his New York contemporaries, acting as a principal organizer and the first elected President of the Artist Tenants Association. In this role, Gahagan led a successful strike by artists to win zoning for artists’ lofts in New York in 1962. This resulted in the establishment of several early artists’ buildings, including the Westbeth, one of the largest artist’s community buildings in the world. In a 1962 article in the New York Times Magazine, the artist spoke for many of his colleagues when he described the artist’s classic battle between a life of financial stability and one of artistic integrity: “It becomes a sort of contest of values… Do we give up our personal freedom and artistic goals and a way of life for job security, a developmental higher salary, Blue Cross insurance policies and a new car? And is it a fair trade? We’ve decided it isn’t. In the end, we feel we have more, not less.”

Gahagan taught painting at Pratt Institute (1965-1971), Columbia University Graduate School of the Arts (1968-1971), and Goddard College (1971-1979), where he became Chairman of the Art Department. He opened the James Gahagan School of Fine Arts in Woodbury, Vermont during the summers of 1971-1974 and was invited to be a visiting artist at Notre Dame University (1978) and at Humboldt State University in California (1989). He was invited to teach at the founding of the prestigious Vermont Studio Center (1984-1999) and in 1991-92 became the resident Artist/Critic at the International Art Workshop in New Zealand.

He has exhibited his work extensively in New York and Provincetown, and has also periodically shown in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Paris. His work is represented in the public collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia; and the University Art Museum in Berkeley, among others.

He died at his home in Woodbury, Vermont in 1999 at the age of 71.


CHARLES LITTLER: 1950s and 1960s

Littler.Untitled AbstractACME Fine Art’s first exhibition and opening reception of the 2013 Fall Season will also mark the Grand Opening of the gallery’s new location at 1 Thayer Street in Boston’s SoWa Arts District. ACME’s new street level gallery space is located at the corner of Harrison Avenue and Thayer Streets in the South End. The Opening Reception will coincide with SoWa’s regular First Friday events on Friday, 6 September 2013 from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.

True to the gallery’s ongoing commitment to showcase important American artists of the 20th century, the premiere exhibition in ACME Fine Art’s new gallery space will be a select group of paintings and drawings made in the 1950s and 1960s by noted Abstract Expressionist artist Charles Littler. Littler was a New York School practitioner who emerged from his studies with Hans Hofmann in New York and Provincetown in the early 1950s with a fully articulate and masterfully elegant mode of visual expression that won the immediate respect of his colleagues. In 1952, he, along with Jim Gahagan, founded the James Gallery on 10th Street in Manhattan. The James Gallery is noteworthy for being among the first of a number of important artists’ cooperative galleries that championed Abstract Expressionism in the early 1950s. During this period, Littler’s artwork was featured in solo exhibitions at the James Gallery and the Glidden Gallery in New York, and was also included in a number of group exhibitions at venues such as the New York Center Gallery and at the prestigious149th Annual Exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

In 1957 Littler abandoned the New York art scene and moved to Tucson Arizona, where he taught at the University of Arizona for the next twenty-six years. During this period Littler’s artwork was included in numerous group exhibitions throughout the Southwest, and he was honored with solo exhibitions at the Tuscon Art Center, the Ohio University Art Gallery, and at the University of Arizona. Littler considered his most important artistic accomplishment, however, to be the founding of a communal residential artists’ environment in Oracle Arizona called Rancho Linda Vista. To quote him, “my view of Rancho Linda Vista is that it’s a work of art, initiated by me and executed collaboratively by many members, past, present, and future.” Today –now in it’s third generation- the community that Littler initiated is still thriving.

This will be ACME Fine Art’s second solo exhibition of artwork by Charles Littler. For this exhibition, Gallery Director David Cowan has selected a group of paintings and drawings that span, not only Littler’s transition from east to west, but also demonstrate the artist’s transition from pure Abstract Expressionism to the Figurative Expressionist idiom that seems to have come naturally in conjunction with his relocation from New York to Arizona. It is likely no coincidence that while Littler’s artwork was trending figural, the Figurative Expressionist movement associated with his artist colleagues Jan Muller, Lester Johnson, George McNeil, Robert Beauchamp and Bob Thompson was emerging in avant-garde circles in New York and in Provincetown.

ACME Fine Art’s exhibition: CHARLES LITTLER: 1950s and 1960s will be on view from Friday, 6 September through Saturday, 19 October 2013. New gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and by appointment. For further information about the exhibition, artist, or the gallery please call 617.585.9551 or contact us at


Picture 0895 July – 17 August, 2013

This year ACME Fine Art will open the gallery’s much-anticipated annual Summer Salon exhibition in new digs at 450 Harrison Avenue, Suite 308 in Boston’s South End. The opening will coincide with SoWa’s First Friday events on Friday the 5th of July, and the gallery will be open from 3:00 to 8:00 on that evening. The exhibition will be on view through Saturday 17 August.

This year’s Summer Salon will feature a variety of summer-themed artworks created during the twentieth century at New England’s renowned summer art colonies, as well as a selection of Gallery Director David Cowan’s personal favorite works reprised from gallery and museum exhibitions of the 2012/2013 season. Highlights will include a very rare, early watercolor of the Provincetown waterfront by Edwin Dickinson, a mid-career gem titled Polynesian I (small version) by Hans Hofmann, an important oil painting titledSeaside Holiday by Kenneth Stubbs that was featured in the recent Tides of Provincetown exhibition mounted by the New Britain Museum of American Art, and an oil painting by Dorothy Eisner from her celebrated Croquet Series that was created on Cranberry Island, Maine during the 1970s. Other artists whose artwork will form a part of the exhibition include: Michael Loew, Charles Littler, Myrna Harrison, Haynes Ownby, George Lloyd, William Freed, Lillian Orlowsky, Maurice Freedman, Panos Ghikas, Daniel Brustlein, and Jack Tworkov.

Timed to coincide with what promises to be a blockbuster exhibition titled Pioneers of Provincetown that is being mounted this summer by the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, this year’s Summer Salon will also include a number of significant artworks by artists who will be featured in the PAAM exhibition. The theme of the PAAM exhibition is “the genesis of the Figurative Expressionist Movement in Provincetown.” In concert with this, ACME Fine Art will feature Figurative Expressionist works by such pioneers of that movement as Jan Muller, Lester Johnson, Tony Vevers, Jay Milder, and George McNeil.

ACME Fine Art’s 11th Annual SUMMER SALON exhibition will open on Friday, 5 July 2013 and will be on view through Saturday, 17 August 2013 at the gallery’s interim location: 450 Harrison Avenue, Suite 308, Boston, MA 02118. Parking is available. Please contact the gallery at 617.585.9551 or for further information about exhibitions or artists. Summer Gallery Hours are 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.


Deck of Emma Bakke, 1953, oil on panel, 16 x 20

Mary Hackett – Deck of Emma Bakke, 1953, oil on panel, 16 x 20

13 April – 25 May, 2013

INTERIORS is the title of a six-artist group exhibition that will open at ACME Fine Art in Boston on Saturday, 13 April 2013. The exhibition will feature classic paintings by twentieth century modern artists who practiced in Provincetown as well as cutting edge contemporary artwork created specifically for this exhibition by artists who have been fellows at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. The exhibition will be on view through 25 May, 2013 at the gallery and on-line at

The six artists included in this distinguished group are:

Maurice Freedman was very much a “mid-century modern” artist. Freedman’s brilliantly colorful paintings of interior scenes at once visually recall his study with Max Beckman during the first half of the twentieth century and at the same time illuminate his own personal outward-looking experiences of both Provincetown and his studio in New York. His work expressively captures both time and space.

Mary Hackett was a self-taught painter and longtime resident of Provincetown. Her scenes of everyday life contain numerous symbolic and memory-laden objects placed in an often naïvely constructed space that together create an autobiographical narrative that is so compelling that Hackett has developed a formidable cult following among those fortunate enough to know and collect her rare creations.

Sharli Powers Land was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in 1969-‘70. Her boldly evocative paintings have an uncanny appeal with a dynamic composition and a palette that is downright explosive. Land’s interior views capture a sense of place while often making reference to a place in time through the incorporation of formal references to her contemporaries such as Mary Hackett and Myron Stout.

Samuel Messer was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in 1981. Messer is currently Associate Dean of the Art program at Yale University. His interior portraits are wildly expressive paeans to his subject. They convey an all-encompassing vision of their sitter through the loosely rendered likeness that is central to the composition and through the complex interior environment created by Messer.

Meghan Gordon was a recent fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center. Gordon’s artwork relies heavily on art-historical research. She creates paintings/drawings, objects, film, and installations that create an alternative art history that actively engages and challenges the observer. The interior is consistently a crucial theme and component of Gordon’s artistry.

Paul Kelly is a contemporary artist living in Provincetown whose subject matter is most often Cape related. Kelly’s paintings have an elegantly edited quality both in palette and in composition. The resultant views appear both true to their location and completely abstract, simultaneously. Like Freedman, this artist is interested in the view through the opening; however, in Kelly’s interiors all but the essential has been eliminated.

Beyond the obvious links having to do with the outer Cape, the INTERIORS exhibition will explore common threads in the genre as evidenced in the works by these six important 20th and 21st century artists. Some of the common threads are: visual and formal interests in the relationships between inside and out vis-à-vis the notion of containment, the use of personal objects as symbols and the meanings associated with them, the manipulation of perspective to enhance a sense of space and volume, the introduction of historical references and the connections such references make with the observer, and how the introduction of the figure –portrait or self-portrait- animates the interior.

A special Exhibition Preview Event to benefit the Fine Arts Work Center will be hosted by the Galleries at 38 Newbury Street on Friday 12 May. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres, catered by MAX Ultimate Food, will be served between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. In celebration of National Poetry Month, special guests at the event will also include Robert Pinsky, US Poet Laureate (1997-2000), and poet John Murillo, Fine Arts Work Center writing Fellow (2007-2008). Tickets for the preview can be purchased through the Fine Arts Work Center ( or by phone at 508-487-9960 x 101. Please contact the gallery for further information.