National Museum of Fine Arts of Buenos Aires
This is the curatorial text by Fabián Lebenglik, the curator of the Argentinian Pavillion
at the Venice Biennale in 2009
Eduardo Hoffmann, who lived in Salvador de Bahía and in Paris for a long time, now finds himself in a house far from Buenos Aires, for the first time in four years. The works of the Emptines show (which can be seen in the MNBA until March 7) bring together his devotion to Buddhist philosophy, his attraction to opposites and his penchant for blank spaces, “that which is within the world of the painter but was not touched by him. “
By Fabián Lebenglik
The National Museum of Fine Arts exhibits in the enormous pavilion of the ground floor a great sample of paintings, plus some drawings, papers and sculptures made during the last year and part of the 2000 by Eduardo Hoffmann. The exhibition, which impacts on the variety, freedom and quantity of work, bears the paradoxical title of Emptiness. The notion of emptiness in Hoffmann takes its meaning from a certain mystical tradition which, to express certain phenomena and religious experiences, makes simultaneous use of both the “affirmative” (satiety, full and complete) and “negative” (empty): phenomena of polar identity that include the opposites, just as in the works exhibited in the Museum. Thus an order of experience is expressed in terms of its opposite. This paradoxical and dichotomous functioning of meaning is at the origin of the myths and the story that religions make of their respective cosmogonies.
In Buddhism - the religion that most appeals to Hoffmann. the functioning of the dual spiritual state takes the names of Samsara and Nirvana as constructive principles. In relation to the experiences of introspection and isolation, Hoffmann decided to settle eight years ago, far from the mundane noise, in the small town of Parquemar, near Miramar and five hundred kilometers from Buenos Aires. The great living room of the artist’s house-born in Mendoza in 1957, grandson of an amateur painter and a collector who has many works by Fernando Fader. follows the pattern of certain nineteenth century painters, because the interior walls are completely covered by an immense fresco painted by himself. Nature and art, for this painter, drawer, sculptor and videographer, constitute the most appropriate context for artistic practice. The huge house and the workshop are surrounded by dogs and fruit trees: plum, walnut, apple, fig tree are part of that context - there are forests and fields planted there. - which has a concrete impact on the performance of his work. This relative isolation, however, does not violate the information that every contemporary artist should have: Hoffmann takes it and receives it permanently through different channels, more usual now than when he barely moved. But for some time now he is an artist of the world: he showed his work in most of the great international art fairs. And in these days of a marathon February for the artist, also presents an exhibition in Panama.
This shows that the long periods in which the artist does not show in Argentina remain, as now, long compensated with sufficiently generous exhibitions, such as the one that can be seen in the National Museum of Fine Arts. Before the dozens and dozens of paintings that are shown in the Museum it is difficult for the viewer to escape from touching what is seen. Touching is a check. Touching those paintings, it is assumed, is getting closer to the truth they show. In this case, to see if all those colors and shades correspond to an imagined texture. It is the closeness of touch that seeks intimacy and contact. But those complex surfaces are only crossed with the look. The hand reaches nothing more than there.
“I am a painter who tends to load his works in several senses and, of course, with a lot of material,” says Hoffmann. “This idea of emptiness, which I take from Buddhism, has attracted me for a long time: it allows me to free myself or, rather, to leave the pictures freed to my own gesture. And as for the vacuum, I am very interested in the blank spaces of the fabric. The gaps that each work includes, that which is within the world of the painter but nevertheless was not touched by him. I believe, in short, that nothing exists except emptiness and beauty. Besides all this intense work left me, for a time, empty. “Hoffmann began his career as a virtuoso and has an academic background that respects but against which at the same time he struggles. That is why, little by little, he was exorcising virtuosity, taking away all the acrobatic burrs, until transforming it into adventure. He lived in Salvador de Bahia and in Paris. He has an excellent large-format artist’s book (published in 1991) and two good catalogs at the Der Brücke gallery in 1993 and 1996. He won the prizes, among others, Movado (1988) and Fortabat (1991) ). His last exhibition in Buenos Aires before this one at the MNBA was an excellent retrospective four years ago at the Borges Center: paintings that continued outside the painting to become sculptures; cracked sectors of the floor that he appropriated as if they were drawings. He had mastered virtuosity to privilege painting. Hoffmann’s ability to draw attention is that he is always composing and recomposing drawings: he imaginatively isolates a segment of the world called “real” -the branch of a tree, a seed, an insect, the whites of the page of a book, etc.-. and transforms it into a work of its own with a few strokes if it is a plane or with some added detail, if it is an object. Between the void and its plot setback, I fill it, more than a jump there is a continuity, a series of variations and changes that lead from one to another. “I like to think that each work is independent of others and, in the first place, of myself. Of course, there are certain pictures that are related to others, which are familiar to each other and get along, but I do not like the twins. I prefer variations, “continues Hoffmann. But in truth, the Hoffmann method is that of a simultaneity of styles that cross freely. The changeable nature of his work-from one technique to another. it’s noticeable in the successive series of related tables.
When the eye stops in a series that can be a carrier of a supposed “Hoffmann style”, then the artist mutates, looks for a new direction, he escapes from his own work. It is clear that style is the way in which an artist works with the truth and expectation of the other, and so his production modifies, in each new exhibition, what is expected of him. The surfaces of his paintings are crossed by layers of materials, colors, infinite lines, grids, prints, insects, accidents. Each work is a burning territory that functions as a place where materials are deposited and mixed. Each painting could be thought of as a collection of aesthetic traditions: the strokes and marks suppose at the same time a gestural tradition and a primitivism that the artist cultivates religiously. Through the thickness (material and symbolic) of each painting is inferred a process not only technical but fundamentally cultural. Layers of successive and superimposed materials evoke distinct layers of lost senses. Meanwhile, on the surface, drawings are displayed: all a recognizable zoology and botany, plus a series of arabesques that sometimes play symmetry and others go crazy in crazy sequences. The nature of the works produces the certainty of the surplus. This notorious sense of excess is also seen in the assembly and selection of the sample. Contrary to the current tendency, according to which it is rigorous to show only a dozen works per exhibition, Hoffmann does not dose and shows everything: the beginning, the process, the transition, the change, the step back, the end, the resumption and so on. The works establish a dialogue between them and the artist does not want to interrupt that plot. “I think the works,” the painter finishes, “always exceed me. Also, I like the idea of not recognizing myself in the play. Or, in any case, to feel in them only an air of familiarity.”
Prophet in his own country
by Alicia de Arteaga
After travelling and succeeding all over the world, mendocinian Eduardo Hoffmann achieved a long sought dream, returning to his homeland with a great exhibition at the Killka Museum in Tunuyan with his last two years works.
T’is like back to first love. Hoffmann, curated by Sara Garcia Uriburu, has gathered his most recent works: huge canvas, sensuous textures and citations of masterpieces resummoned by the artist.
Returning to Killka is always a celebration: Eliana Bórmida imagined that splendid architecture at Tunuyan’s piedmont as the home of an important collection of argentinian art; a view where some stunted nature foresees a magnificent view of the snowy mountains
It also means a double celebration for Eduardo Hoffmann because he is from Mendoza, educated at the local art school and having a first idyll with fame when, at twenty, he won the Vendimia prize. One of his paintings is at the Fader Museum Collection and two other at Killka’s (a collection including Works by Polesello, Minujin, Gamarra, Schvartz, Macció, Uriburu, Demirjian, Gorriarena, Benguria and, last but not least, Carlos Alonso, another mendocinian whose cobalt blue chaise longue says, in his impassible narrative stillness, more than a thousand words
Wearing a plaid suit and a straw hat, Eduardo H. wanders around Killka. Its a sunny, shining day, as dry as the wine sprung from the desert. Before the oficial opening, Hoffman will proclaim to those who want to hear that “he always wanted to exhibit here”. His wish became real with a group of works that interact amazingly with the wide spaces proyected by architect Bórmida, where privileged views meet noble materials and chromatic starkness. The name of the exhibit, Special Correspondents, refers to those journalist travelling where facts happen, being himself a narrator in situ of a colorful chronichle.
Hoffmann is, sometimes, a special correspondent to the Prado Museum where he rescues Goya’s Nude Maja in order to dress her, or stiring up the flemish captain in the velazquian Breda Surrender, so that he stabs his enemy with a dagger instead of obediently delivering the keys of the city, confirming that of winners and losers. Such process is being achieved –such as in animation- on the minimum alterations between frame and frame applied on an acrylic plate. Expressive matter for an obsessive of detail, an artisan of the instant.
A born and student in Mendoza is not a minor data for Hoffmann. He’s travelled and succeeded around the world (see inset), and this exhibit is a chance to return to Mendoza. Paintings, chinese inks, citations coexist in an armonic, provocative set, as it happens with those giant fans reproducing to the infinite Magritte’s iconic pipe or Velazquez’s spears (see photo). Creative alchemy in the way he prepares his canvas but, also, in the polichromed carved aluminium spheres, a new cosmos like a mobile reduced to the plane which, by some unexpected mechanism, could regain its movement anytime..
Hoffmann belongs to that breed of artists that evade uniformity. adventuring into new experiences, no matter the risks. A special correspondent to the battlefield.
A very special medium
by Eduardo Villar
A private collection of Porsche bonnets performed by argentinian and uruguayan artists opens in Santiago del Estero. A bussinesman and collector’s accomplished dream.
Weird. A term used to describe the exhibit taking place at the Centro Cultural del Bicentenario in Santiago del Estero, with big names in argentinian art: Marta Minujín, Clorindo Testa, Luis Benedit, Juan Doffo, Eduardo Stupía, Marcia Schvartz Rogelio Polesello, Eduardo Hoffmann as well as some uruguayan artists: Carlos Páez Vilaró and Pablo Atchugarry.
Up on a platform in the center of the room stands a white, striking Porsche 911 GT2, a treasure in car design and a symbol of universal status. His bonnet bears a painting from uruguayan artist Eduardo Strauch, one of the survivors of the Andes airplane oddisey. And such central spot is a fair hommage because in the beginning was Porsche. Two dozens of bonnets hang around him and reproduce it. Each bonnet has the identity of a Porsche, it is a Porsche. And sometimes you feel you are not in an art room but in an authorized car dealer.
The history behind this exhibit, the Gomez Porsche Collection, starts in 2009, when bussinesman Jorge Gomez adquired the only existing GT2 in Argentina. “I thought such a decision deserved something special and I had the idea of painting a bonnet, not to use it on the car but to display an art work on some different medium”. The bonnet multiplied. The first five ones were performed by Pablo Atchugarry, Clorindo Testa, Marta Minujin, Páez Vilaró and Rogelio Polesello. In time the collection grew up to 26 works Porsche bonnets.
Gomez, assisted by marchand Loreto Arenas, visited galleries and museums to get acquainted with the work of the newest breed of argentinian artists and command them a performing on his collection. Most of the artists were free to perform but some of them followed very clear instructions. For instance, Gomez asked and Astroboy and a Speed Racer –two of his childhood characters- to Andres Compagnucci who painted them with aerograph, one of the best works in the collection.
Eduardo Hoffmann’s case is one of the most accomplished in the whole collection, an agressive performing using a water stream on the bonnet. “I thought –he says- a water stream is optimal for a motorized medium, sionce its a technique mostly related to the lock, a great pressure of water and sand piercing through the lock”.
Using this technique he depicted Van Gogh’s Sower with concentric circles.
Eduardo Hoffmann pays tribute to great artists
by Jorge Glusberg
Famous for his international career, Eduardo Hoffmann (1957) exhibits in his homeland, Mendoza. At the Killka Museum in Tunuyan he presents «Special Correspondents», with his latest works. The exhibit, curated by Sara García Uriburu, assisted by Anabel Simionato, includes thirty works in different sizes and techniques.
«A part of them are investigation series, trial and error, kind of search including digital intervention, modern stuff. This is an important part of my work. The other one is the most ancestral, maybe more classical.” says the artist. The meaning of the title, “Special Correspondents” doesn’t strictly refer to journalism but to an hommage to great artists that enlightened us, from Velazquez to Magritte passing through Astor Piazzola. Hoffmann mentions and corrects paradigmatic images. For the artist, works of art are not fossiles: he gives them movement opening many possibilities.
«Every emblematic work is an endless source” and Picassso, the most pragmatical of them all, revealed the “infinite readings these source-works inspire”. That’s why, for instance, Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie is a long loved work by Hoffmann, a work in which “still there’s a lot to say” because it continues re-inventing and re-creating itself. Already in his first surrealist paintings like “Paper wedding”, “Still Life Hippodead” and “Behind the scene”; in his symbolic sculptures such as “Belle Angela” and his both ascetics and representative drawings “A pit stop” and “Renocenota”; in his wooden branch works and, finally, in his cave art calligraphies, carved with endless creativity, as in “Pisa Giraffe, Adan Buenosayres and Maho 2”, Hoffmann used different materials and shapes that moved and inspired him to achieve the goal of every artist: testify.
Even considering a clear continuity in his work, we can discern several moments. Around the end of the 70s and beginnings of the 80s his surrealistic canvas reminds us vaguely to the sarcastic and enigmatic first Magritte. His works bear a deep mastery of the craft, humour, poetic temptation and boldness. Then, in works like Centaur’s Hug he peeped on neoexpressionism – more by attitude than by aesthetic conviction-. Such proposal invaded his next works and led him into abstraction.
The artist pointed that, while facing the medium –canvas, wood, leather, majolica, cardboard, hemp cloth- he doesn’t look the depth of the substance but the world of men. The experience on solitude before the birth of world and pain. Buddah shows the way but men only count on their experience to walk it: in order to get over his pain he must enhance his congenital solitude.
Hoffmann discovers the imperfect nature of human creation, that of men not anymore conceived as a minor premise or essential gear for the eternal harmony. “I want to paint as if it would be the last day” he pointed out, referring to the occurring danger in many artists, “becoming, us or our work, predictables”, which in turn “may transform it into a perfect or very well finished product that already says nothing. I try not to fall into this trap…”
His images on human condition –love, irony, chimera, discouragement, hope, the new myths, everyday life- are also images about the condition of art. His new exhibit at Killka confirms his ongoing research. Hoffman knows there are no limits: they only exist as much as the artist accepts them. Therefore he doesn’t paint as if it would be the last day. He paints as if it would be the first day, the first day of his individual creation and also the first one in the entire, collective, general creation.
The Killka –a term meaning gate or portal in andean language- Museum is a cultural extensión of Salentein Winery. Besides the temporary exhibits it also hosts a XIX/XXth Century Dutch Art Collection and contemporary argentinian art including works of renowned artists such as Silvina Benguria, Jorge Demirjian and Carlos Gorriarena among others.
Painting as excess
by Jorge López Anaya
Once more, Eduardo Hoffmann’s exhibit at the Centro Cultural Borges is characterized by excess:
Inmoderate for the amount of works –several tens- and also by linguistic diversity and formal profusion enlivening each surface.
Outpouring, delirious abstract paintings by Hoffmann –lacking all figurative referentes- propose the spectator an experience of visual vertigo (in the way the always plural baroque eye).
Patches, splashes, brushes, textures and colours transform the painting in a fabulous random game of gestures and surfaces. In every work we gaze overlapped coats making up a thick, colorful and visible paste. Beneath the accidents, the cumulate strata, there’s something else apart from the artist compulsive attitude, plunging, sparing no expense nor gestures into the creative moment: it’s sense.
“Empty” seems to be the key word to Hoffmann’s art. He states “this vacuum idea, borrowed from buddhism, attracts me since quite a bit of time; allows me to be free, meaning letting my gesture act free on the canvas. Regarding emptyness I’m very much into white spaces on canvas”. This phrase reminds us taoist art in which shapes scatter emphasizing emptyness. There’s no convergent centrality as in western perspective, but many vanishing points heading towards the outskirts of the frame, towards an infinite universe reflecting the bearer’s inside. This relates to the words in the Sutra Prajnaparamita: “Form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form; form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form…”
Eduardo Hoffmann was born in Mendoza in 1957, studied drawing with Manuel Zorrilla and painting with Zdravko Ducmelic. He started his career in 1978 after winning the first prize at the Salon Vendimia in his home town. He lived in Brasil in 1984; moved to Paris a year later where he was patronized by Julio Le Parc. He spent time in Madrid and Germany. He took part in the 2nd Art Bienal at La Habana in 1984. He won the Movado Prize for the Young Generations in 1988; received the Fortabat Prize in 1991 and the Leonardo Prize in 1998. A book on his work was published at the beginnings of the 90s, with a prologue by Jorge Glusberg. Shortly after Hoffmann moved to Parquemar, near Miramar, on the southern coast of Buenos Aires.
In 2000 the National Museum of Fine Arts opened a huge Empty exhibit on his works. Big polichrome papers, small ink sketches and silicon rubber textured canvas completed a vast summa of abstract and figurative works. One year later he showed some 50 works spanning 1998-2001 at L’Espal Centre Culturel in Le Mans (France). In these last years Hoffmann entered the main international art exhibitions (FIAC, París; Basel, Basilea; Art Chicago, Chicago; Art Miami, Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami; ArteBA, Buenos Aires; ARCO, Madrid, etc).