The exhibition focuses on Hofmann's works on paper. Why is this such a timely project and contribution to understanding who the artist is
Hofmann drew, made watercolors, and painted on paper all his life. Drawing was an integral part of his teaching, and there were periods when, because of the demands of teaching, he only drew. Hofmann's first show in America was of black and white drawings. What's fascinating is that while the imagery of Hofmann's works on paper and on canvas is intimately related, the material differences between them provoked different responses. Hofmann's works on paper are often more spontaneous, looser, and more playful than his canvases--and certainly more intimate. We are allowed to see a more informal side of a very great artist. That's a privilege.
The show is timely because interest in Hofmann has been growing steadily. His wide range of approaches was once seen as problematic, when artists were supposed to have “signature styles”--think of Pollock's pours or Newman's Zips. Now variety is seen as a plus. But, as I said, no one has looked comprehensively at this part of Hofmann's oeuvre before.
The chronological exhibition includes many sections. If you had to narrow in on one area, what body of work do you see as crucial to understanding his works on paper?
Hofmann's most notable characteristic is variety. He worked in many different ways, sometimes at the same time. We broke the show into sections to clarify the multiple facets of this endlessly inventive artist. To appreciate Hofmann, you have to acknowledge the variety, so it's impossible to isolate a single aspect. The critic Clement Greenberg, a life-long admirer of Hofmann, called him “a virtuoso of invention.”