Just opened at Freight & Volume, the wonderfully understated gallery situated on blue chip row in Chelsea, is an exhibition of new paintings by Peter Allen Hoffmann that shows this young artist both exploring affinities with romantic landscape and expanding those impulses into a personal and intimate abstraction. The title of the show is “Proscenium”, referring to the arch above a theater, and implying a conscious manipulation of the “theatrics” of the idiom – a specific assertion of painting as a poetic construct.
Comprised of 18 very small paintings, most about 12 inches square, hung high on the wall at almost 6 feet on center, the show presents a range of imagery that is unified by a spirit of exploration and a delicate touch. Many of the works qualify as traditional landscapes, but while they pay obvious homage to that tradition, they are built through a process of layering and editing that expands their intention and effect. What we see in each piece seems to be the last in a long series of images with evidence of the previous incarnations visible around the edges – yet with a certain pristine lightness to the final surface. For me, the most engaging aspect of the show is the inclusion of a small group of works that stand out as “pure” abstraction. In these pieces, Hoffmann opens the door to a different kind of space, and utilizes the previous layers of imagery to greater effect. The range of exploration conveyed by the combination of these works with the landscapes suggests that Hoffman is much less interested in subject matter than in the pictorial dynamics of his process and the ultimate metaphoric implications. The economy and extreme sensitivity of the configurations and surfaces in all of these works embody a highly focused hand-made poeticism, and a true love of the medium and the making.