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Dazzling Hans Hofmann Retrospective At Berkley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Originally published in Piedmont Post, March 2019

Hans Hofmann: Indian Summer, 1959; oil on canvas

If you like abstract art, or simply want to add some color to your weekend, head to the Berkeley Art Museum. Until July 21st, BAMPFA is running an incredible retrospective of Hans Hofmann, one of the most influential abstract painters of the twentieth century. Featuring nearly seventy paintings—including works from private collections that have never been exhibited in a museum setting—Hans Hofmann: The Nature of Abstraction offers a fresh look at the work of a painter whose vivid experiments with color and form helped spark the Abstract Expressionist movement.

The Nature of Abstraction is the most comprehensive presentation of Hofmann’s oeuvre since the artist’s death in 1966. The retrospective draws on BAMPFA’s own holdings—which include the world’s largest museum collection of Hofmann’s work—as well as important public and private collections from around the globe. Organized chronologically, the exhibition traces the full arc of Hofmann’s vibrant creative trajectory, which began with a teaching position at UC Berkeley in the 1930s.

Curated by BAMPFA’s Curator Emerita Lucinda Barnes, the chronological exhibition opens with works created by Hofmann during his formative years in the 1930s and ’40s, after he emigrated from his native Germany to the United States, where he taught at UC Berkeley, then the Art Students League of New York, before establishing his famously influential schools in New York City and Provincetown, Massachusetts. Many of Hofmann’s pupils went on to become nationally distinguished artists in their own rights, including Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Red Grooms, Wolfgang Paalen.

The exhibition marks a major milestone in BAMPFA’s unique history with the artist, who in 1963 donated to UC Berkeley nearly fifty of his most significant paintings, along with a substantial cash contribution toward the construction of a new museum building. In addition to supporting the realization of UC Berkeley’s first purpose-built art museum, this transformative gift established twentieth-century painting as a major strength of BAMPFA’s encyclopedic collection, which today includes the world’s most extensive museum holdings of Hofmann’s work.

“We’re thrilled to renew the legacy of Hans Hofmann with an exhibition of unprecedented breadth and scholarship, which celebrates the work of an artist whose contributions to American painting—and to BAMPFA’s institutional vitality—reverberate to this day,” said BAMPFA Director and Chief Curator Lawrence Rinder.

Adjacent to the Hans Hoffman exhibit visitor will find a showcase of the acclaimed Berkeley artist and designers Masako Miki. On view at MATRIX 273 exhibit are more than a dozen large-scale felt-covered sculptures that appear as dreamlike shapes, subtly invoking figurative objects such as lips, umbrellas, and insects. These works draw on the artist’s interest in Shinto, Buddhist, and traditional Japanese culture. Brightly colored and gently playful, the sculptures are displayed at BAMPFA in an immersive installation that also includes abstract images on the floor and walls of the exhibition gallery.

Don’t forget that BAMPFA also offers a stimulating movie-going experience in the museum’s intimate theatre. You can see recent releases, restored classics and special guests. Gallery admission is free with a movie ticket. Upstairs restaurant offers sophisticated farm-to-table fare for a unique dinner-and-movie night.

Visitor Information:


2155 Center Street, Berkeley, CA 94720

Hours Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m

On selected Wednesdays, Sundays, and Free First Thursdays, you can explore Hoffman’s work with guided tours. Make it an educational experience: special talks by Matthew Coleman, BAMPFA Curatorial Assistant on April 10 and John Zurier, abstract painter, May 12, both at noon.

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