A Precedes B – George Hofmann

A Precedes B 

Works by Four Artists 

David Richard Gallery 211 East 121 Street New York NY 10035 

Opening 9 March 2022 Reception 12 March 2022 2-6 pm 

George Hofmann
Ghost Fuji, 2020
Acrylic on linen mounted to wood 18 x 24 inches 

The time George Hofmann spent with Clement Greenberg in New York and Vermont in the Sixties was a formative period for the artist. The regulative idea “this is beautiful” was an aesthetic one Greenberg derived from Immanuel Kant. Hofmann came to share this critical method of judging artworks with Greenberg. 

The declarative statement was one based upon feeling, and emotion, as products of the senses. The conventions of painting, as corollaries of experience, were subsequently tested to one degree or another in their abilites to provoke response. Abstract pictures become ever more optical and flat in their rejection of depiction and illusion. Greenberg’s theory was the underpinning of postwar abstract painting up through the middle of the decade, which was when Hofmann began teaching at Hunter College with Vincent Longo, Tony Smith, and others. 

In Homemade Esthetics, Greenberg defined continuity as a means of informing judgements, which in turn buttressed pronouncements of taste. This guaranteed an ineffable sense of quality would be discerned in any artwork worthy of attention. The fact of one thing following another conferred a sense of order to them. For Greenberg, this remained steadfast, regardless of the surprise which arrived from a confrontation with novelty, where the appearance of different expectations held forth. Greenberg thus took chronology into account in his theory, but only in the most retrospective way. He didn’t fully account for the reality which actually makes a shape of time, and produces various artifacts as images of it. 

In 2010, Hofmann’s essay “Fractured Space” characterized discontinuity as Greenberg didn’t, and likely couldn’t have. The difference Hofmann raised in his writing acknowledged “a piling on of history, experience, and emotion.” In Hoffman’s hands, a thoughtful framework was surmised for a contemporary means of addressing, yet not assessing, the status of any artwork. His is a proposition built upon looking, and looking again, and deferring resolution. In other words, where Greenberg claimed certitude, Hofmann expresses doubt. 

Subsequently, an understanding of Hofmann’s intuition is found in the equation “A Precedes B”. It implies ordered relationships which aren’t self-reflexive, as modernist painting had been, nor merely relative, as postmodern art became. With the medium as its symbol, painting is now is free to truly become itself, but may only do so as it continues to hold other paintings in mind. This position acknowledges the pictorial turn art has taken as the world bears the effects computation has placed upon it, with a leveling of representation instantiated by the translation of all into code. It’s here where painting might prove resistant, and reestablish its place amongst the concerns of the avant-gardes which have come before. 

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