Dead Blogging ‘Hans Hofmann’ at Peabody Essex Museum

Well the Missus and I trundled up to Salem this past weekend to take in Hans Hofmann: The Nature of Abstraction (through January 5) at the expanded Peabody Essex Museum and say, the exhibit was swell although the #newPEM part was a bit confusing.

Start with the Hans Hofmann exhibit, which was curated by Lydia Gordon, Associate Curator of Exhibitions and Research at PEM.

Discover a fresh perspective on the artist and teacher widely considered a profound influence on American modern art. Organized by UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), the exhibition presents the most comprehensive examination of Hans Hofmann’s innovative and prolific artistic career. Through paintings and works on paper from 1930 through the end of Hofmann’s life in 1966, explore the artist’s journey into abstraction, and his deep contribution to the artistic landscape of New England.

It’s a nicely staged, truly immersive showing of Hofmann’s synthesis of color, shape, and light. As Hofmann, a born teacher, told his students, “In nature, light creates the color. In the picture, color creates the light.” And PEM has created something enlightening.

(You don’t have to take our word for it, though – the Wall Street Journal’s Lance Esplund gave it a rave review in Tuesday’s edition.)

From there we revisited Order of Imagination: The Photographs of Olivia Parker, a fabulous exhibit of Parker’s work that vividly illuminated her scaling, setting, and lighting of objects large and small, common and exotic.

Representative samples:


From Mark Feeney’s Boston Globe review:

At their frequent best, these images are marvelousness made visible. Marvelousness is to be expected when, as here, invention and slyness and seemingly boundless curiosity come together.

Unfortunately, the exhibit closed this past Monday, but a visit to the web page is a fine consolation prize.

From there we wandered over to the museum’s new $125 million wing – accent on wandered. (Note to PEMniks: Signage, people.)

Eventually we stumbled upon PEM’s new exhibit Fashion and Design Can . . . (through January 1, 2022).

Whether designing for self-adornment or for use, this installation unifies two traditionally disparate collecting fields to better understand what underlies our motivations and capacity for designing ourselves and the world around us. Ensembles from the Iris Apfel Rare Bird of Fashion collection celebrate the exuberant remixing and inventive styling of one of the world’s most prominent fashion icons, while constellations of unique and culturally significant works of design, fashion, and textiles explore distinctive and resourceful forms of creative expression.

The exhibit declares that fashion and design can . . . Be Imaginative . . . Intimidate or Empower . . . Define or Confine . . . and etc.

It can also . . .  Be a Bit of a Mishmash.

Representative samples:



(To be fair graf goes here)

To be fair, this is how Curator of Fashion and Textiles Nancy Putnam sees the exhibit.



Either way, well worth a trundle.

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