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.