Earlier this week, Fred finished two paintings: “In the Ballpark” and “Tales of Hoffman.” They’ve been sitting in different corners of the studio for a few weeks, getting occasional swipes of paint and additions of color as we prepare for shows and Fred focuses on drawings and watercolors.
This weekend, though, we had some serious conversations about where we both hope our new venture into the art world will take us, and I suspect that these two paintings reflect that.
The title of “Tales of Hoffmann” is one of Fred’s beloved puns. It most obviously refers to Hans Hoffmann, an Abstract Expressionist painter who greatly influenced the professors in Fred’s MFA program. But it also refers to E.T.A. Hoffmann, a German writer active during the Romantic period. Like Hoffman the painter’s works, this piece combines warm colors (red and orange) with cool (blue and green) to create “push and pull,” a tension that captures the viewer’s gaze. But Fred isn’t entirely comfortable with that influence, or whether he should break from it. And so the title also refers to E.T.A. Hoffmann and his tales of doppelgangers—spectral, even evil look-alikes who haunt his protagonists, like the ghost of Hans lurking in this painting. Whether that ghost is friendly or threatening is not yet clear.
“In the Ballpark” explores another tension, that between Fred’s love of figurative drawing and the abstract use of color, and more broadly the perpetual tension between drawing and painting in Fred's work. The painting started out as a drawing of a ballpark seen from the upper deck. (Fred loves sports and especially baseball, despite his recent despair over the Braves’ impending move to Cobb county. ) He then layered on color as a way of negating the representative elements—bodies in the stands, a field of grass—while still grappling with the demands of representation. The act of making planes of color, he says, reconfigures the original drawing and reinterprets what it means to be into a ballpark. The title--yes, another pun--reflects the particular difficulty of translating the image into color: Often, you’re only in the ballpark.
Jami Moss Wise