Monday, July 18, 2011

George Hofmann on Fractured Space, pt. 2

George Hofmann, Duccio Fragment #8 (left) and Duccio Fragment #9 (right), 2011. Both acrylic on board, 30" x 24."

For a number of years now, painter George Hofmann has perceived a new kind of pictorial space beginning to crystallize in painting which he refers to as "Fractured Space." He published his first description of Fractured Space here on No Hassle at the Castle in the fall of 2010, and has since fielded many questions about the differences between Fractured Space and the faceted space of Cubism. I received the following reflections on the subject in an e-mail from George last month:

I am forwarding something I wrote to Arthur Yanoff, who was asked by Ken Moffett why Fractured Space was different than Cubism. And I got kick started by Mark Stone's Courbet article, which I thought was really excellent!

I think the main thing about what has changed is the centrality of Cubism – the point of view of the artist, and ergo, the viewer - versus the diffusion and increasingly all-over, up and down, in and out quality of FS. Clearly, to me, Pollock was the precursor here, as were Newman and others, and clearly, again to me, why Jules Olitski and Ken Noland especially were so important in the development of this.

The other point is a more elusive one: the prettiness that was a legacy of 19th century painting still echoes in painting today - the desire for harmony in composition (Renaissance) and even the appeal, through the everyday-ness of the subject in Impressionism, still hangs on as a guiding idea and an unspoken foundation of art. People still make paintings that appeal, that are composed to balance, to be attractive, etc. We all do!

But to shift the base of composition away from this is difficult, because it involves going against a long tide of what we believe to be right. I still find that wish resonating within me, and know that it is so ingrained as to be almost unerasable.

I think the Cubists still had the old idea about Appeal (only the Expressionists and a few others didn't quite) but, because this idea is so deeply ingrained, it is a very hard one to shake, and we only see it loosening, somewhat, in FS, in part because of the diffusion in images - and this is all to the good.

But it takes a fundamental, psychological shift, I think, to really change - and as I also said to Arthur, I think we are seeing a lot of shifting point-of-view in Installation, because it is a kind of proving ground for art. The much more serious painting and sculpture are bedrock, and slower to change, because when they do it is seismic. I think it is in the nature of sculpture and painting - the two mainstays of art - to seek great themes or subjects; after all, what befits bedrock?

A good example of a seismic shift was the development of genre painting in the Netherlands. What brought this about is a bit of a mystery. Was it just competition, or the desire to bring in a new theme, or was it the result of different experiences – not the high-flown Italian experience of the religious deeply embedded in the historical. Add to this the new-found wealth and power in the North. Who knows what alchemy was at work? But it brought about something new in painting, an intensity and a focus, and a physical sensuality quite different from that of the Italians.

These things take a long time to cook up - decades, at least. But I think there is sufficient generation for real momentum in society now. I am seeing the recent past much more historically myself, and see, increasingly, how very different now is from then. You have only to look at a Noland to know it is not possible now.