Exhibition Pick: Peter Hoffman

Nora Kovacs looks at Peter Hoffman’s new paintings, which use catalogues, record covers, and advertisements as source material.

Peter Hoffman, Velvet Carpet, 2018. Oil on canvas. Courtesy the artist.

Peter Hoffman’s latest solo exhibition at The Front lures visitors in with its playful edge and personable approach. “People with Problems” presents the artist’s most recent oil paintings, in which his subjects are just barely formed, as though they could fall apart and melt away at any minute. This deliberate obscuring of depth and perspective, along with Hoffman’s use of reduced forms and bold tones, evokes the compelling portraiture of David Hockney, while remaining far more gestural.

Unlike the posed stillness of many of Hockney’s portraits, Hoffman’s subjects appear as if in motion, while superimposed objects and forms create a dreamlike abstraction. Rendered like collages in paint, Hoffman’s paintings are cropped, offering brief glimpses into the personalities of his subjects, who are taken from old Sears catalogues, record covers, and advertisements. Blue and grey triangles blanket an otherwise nude character in Bermuda, 2018; a foot and a hand subtly encroach upon a man’s lapel in Business Casual, 2018; and the title character in Mr. Lonestar, 2018, stands confidently in his underwear before an image of a horse and letters that assumedly spell out “Texas.”

“People with Problems” stays true to Hoffman’s signature style, largely defined by his use of geometric shapes and studies of light and color, but with a narrative quality, hinting at his subjects’ inner lives. Hoffman’s portraits are as splintered and decontextualized as the materials they are sourced from and, in piecing these forgotten images back together, Hoffman brings our attention to commercial characters whose supposed problems never got solved.

Editor's Note

Peter Hoffman’s “People with Problems” is on view through April 8, 2018, at The Front (4100 St. Claude Avenue) in New Orleans.