Open Studio with Jared Bowen

S8 E16 | FULL EPISODE

Artists Hans Hofmann, Daniela Rivera, and more

Artist Hans Hofmann’s influence on modern art is on display at the Peabody Essex Museum. Filled with his color-filled canvases, the exhibition presents an array of Hofmann’s work and process. Next, Rappaport Prize winner, artist Daniela Rivera discusses her exhibit at The Fitchburg Art Museum, “Labored Landscapes,” and well-known caricature artist, John Kascht from Wisconsin.

AIRED: November 01, 2019 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

>> JARED BOWEN: Welcome toOpen Studio,

WGBH's weekly spotlight on arts and cultural

from around the region and the nation.

I'm Jared Bowen, coming up onOpen Studio,

Hans Hofmann, teacher to the greats,

is a great revelation in his own paintings.

>> They're really gestural.

They're really full of movement.

It's almost as if he was dancing when creating them.

>> BOWEN: Then, artist Daniela Rivera.

Her epic works are a labor of love.

You have had aches and pains after creating this piece

because of how much you work,

you-you literally suffer for your art.

>> Yeah... so that's stupid right?

>> BOWEN: I don't think so.

Not if it's something you're passionate about.

>> No, maybe there's some kind of masochism

in my head, I don't know.

>> BOWEN: Plus, taking John Kascht seriously.

>> Caricature is not cartooning, it's not illustration,

it's not a comic strip.

Caricature is a very specialized form of portraiture.

>> BOWEN: It's all now onOpen Studio.

First up, even without picking up a paint brush,

Hans Hofmann had a profound influence on modern art

as a teacher to some of the 20th-century greats.

But as the Peabody Essex Museum reveals in a new show,

he was in a class all his own.

To artist Hans Hofmann, process was as important as painting.

And he's not just using a brush.

>> No.

On this one, on this one,

I think you can see a palette knife,

you can see brush.

He may have squeezed pigment directly onto the canvas.

Once in a while, we find fingerprints.

>> BOWEN: This is Hofmann's "Indian Summer"

painted when he was 79,

when he was in the midst of an artistic rebirth.

>> This is an amazing landscape or mindscape

of what might be fall colors, uh...

this bright, bright orange, intense blue.

>> BOWEN: In fact, many of the works

in this Peabody Essex Museum show,

where we find Hofmann exploring "the nature of abstraction,"

were completed toward the end of his life,

says curator Lucinda Barnes.

>> All he did was paint.

And the paintings that we're sitting amongst,

these are paintings that he made in his 80s.

And there's an enormous scale to them.

There's enormous energy.

>> BOWEN: Hofmann was born in Germany in 1880.

In Europe, he was a painter and teacher.

He was also part of an artistic circle

that included Picasso and Matisse

that would prove to be hugely impactful.

>> There were a number of German expats

who were in-in Paris at the time,

and they'd kind of hang out at the same bars,

and they'd go to the same exhibitions.

You see that influence

of Picasso and Matisse and Cezanne very clearly.

>> BOWEN: In the 1930s, Hofmann moved to the United States,

escaping Nazi occupation and World War II.

Here, he took the teacher track,

ultimately in New York and Provincetown,

where Hofmann set up a studio and classroom called the Barn.

>> In that barn, he taught generations of students

for over 20 years.

He returned there every summer

to teach and also recharge his own artistic practice.

>> BOWEN: Lydia Gordon is a curator

with the Peabody Essex Museum,

which is putting the focus on Hofmann as an artist.

But it's hard to ignore his impact as a teacher,

whose students included some of the most well-known artists

of the 20th century, including Louise Nevelson,

Helen Frankenthaler, and Robert Motherwell.

>> Hoffman was inspirational as a teacher,

because he encouraged that individual creative practice.

So, it actually didn't matter what the end result looked like,

but it was how his students got there,

how he got there.

And you can really see that in his own paintings

that we have in this exhibition.

They're really full of movement.

It's almost as if he was dancing when creating them.

>> BOWEN: In Provincetown, Hofmann thrived.

He'd tapped into an artists' community, just like in Europe.

And then there was the beauty of Cape Cod.

>> He goes out,

and the landscape outside of his own studio,

outside of his window, is very evident

in the early landscapes that we have.

He's very much using those Fauvist colors,

those purples and those yellows, to demonstrate the energy,

the spirituality of nature that he's after.

>> Many of the rules around painting were moving away

from a pictorial, a photographic image of the world,

and how do we delve deeper into the soul of the artist.

>> BOWEN: Hofmann closed his Provincetown school in 1957

and began painting full-time

for the first time in more than 40 years.

>> It was a total life commitment.

>> BOWEN: For much of the next decade until his death in 1966,

he was an unrelenting force, says curator Lucinda Barnes.

>> The experimentation, I think, in his late paintings was

more in the way of pushing the boundaries for himself.

You see much more use of dark color,

and ranges of black and velvety greens

and-and that's not easy to do.

>> BOWEN: Hofmann famously distilled his method of making

into the very simple phrase "push and pull."

>> He referred to it

as expanding and contracting forces,

really, polar opposites, almost magnetic forces.

And with push, you have pull.

>> BOWEN: If you find some of the concepts challenging,

you'd be in good company.

Clement Greenberg, one of the most influential art critics

of the mid-century, labeled Hofmann

one of the most difficult artists alive--

both to grasp and appreciate.

>> What Greenberg was saying at the time

was that Hofmann was very hard to pigeonhole.

He was hard to put into one category,

and that was intentional on Hofmann's part.

He had said if he had one style, he was dead as an artist.

>> BOWEN: Which is why, even late in the game,

Hans Hofmann never settled.

>> He always had his paintings around.

He said, "Well, if I can't live with my painting,

that painting isn't good enough."

And so, that was a test for him.

He needed to be continually inspired

and continue to have conversation with his works.

>> BOWEN: The deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum's

prestigious Rappaport Prize

is awarded to artists with strong ties to New England.

So, it was striking that this year's winner

is Chilean-born artist Daniela Rivera.

Since moving to Massachusetts, Rivera's work on dislocation

and national identity has been featured at a number of museums

and is on view now at the Fitchburg Art Museum.

Labored Landscapes features several massive works

that explore the relationship between the body and the earth.

I sat down with Rivera to discuss her work

and the challenge of being a Latina artist in America.

Daniela Rivera, thank you so much for joining us.

>> It's a pleasure, thank you so much for having me.

>> BOWEN: Your work, as we're seeing it right now

at Fitchburg and what you've done at the Museum of Fine Arts,

it's so monumental.

Give me a sense of-of why scope matters

in what you create. >> Well, I think, first of all,

I want the body of the person that comes to participate

in the making of the work.

So, the meaning is not just created by me,

but it's also created by the interaction

and the participation of others.

That's why scale makes it easier, in a way.

You have a relationship.

Um... and I think it matters,

because even though the pieces are very large,

they're done by hand,

and all that process is kind of there

and visible and transparent.

>> BOWEN: Well, going back to the interaction for a moment,

do you make your works

wanting a specific reaction from your audience?

>> No, I don't think I have a particular reaction in mind.

I think the one thing that I'm aware of

is that I want some... some sense of dislocation

or something that is not totally stable,

that you kind of have a feeling

of not understanding exactly where you're standing,

that you have a sense of place

that is not totally comfortable,

or... yeah, familiar.

>> BOWEN: Well, let's go back to--

and, it's appropriate segue, I would imagine-- to Chile,

where you grew up under the Pinochet regime.

And I would imagine that discomfort

was a regular place in your life.

How much of that are you carrying here

now that you're working in the United States?

>> I think instability was a regular feeling, right.

But at the same time, that was normal.

So, I didn't know anything else, which sounds horrible,

but... but at the same time, normalizes this kind of horror,

which is a very weird thing to say.

Um... so, when that changed,

and I came here, um, later,

yeah, of course I carry that with me.

That's with me all the time.

That's, that's, that's who I am.

>> BOWEN: I haven't seen it in person yet,

but I would imagine it's been very much engendered

in your piece "Where the Sky Touches the Earth"

at the Fitchburg Art Museum,

which is a very, very intimate, personal look at hands.

>> Yeah. >> BOWEN: Tell me

about that piece. >> Well, so, that piece is based

on many conversations I had with mining families

that were displaced from Chuquicamata,

which is this massive, open-pit copper mine

in the north of Chile.

And the more I talk with people that had been relocated,

I started finding my own experience of,

you know, immigration.

And that made it...

We actually met in vulnerability.

And what they are trying to do,

like all the images that are in that, in the Fitchburg show,

are about describing the place they come from,

the place that defined them.

And I encounter in the hands more of a description

of the place than in the actual language.

Descriptive language was not easy to access,

and memory were not easy to access.

But the body language and the physical experience

were better narrated by all of the gestures.

>> BOWEN: By gestures. >> Yes.

>> BOWEN: So, not necessarily how the hands looked,

but how they used them. >> How they used them,

what they're trying to say.

And I thought of this, you know, this is a landscape

that had been transformed by-by labor, right.

So, I turned the hands into landscapes, basically

>> BOWEN: You find more expressiveness

and more character in hands than even the face?

>> I think we can connect better to that, to the body,

just to the gestures and to that body language,

than to the faces.

And I think that's also based in my experience

moving from Chile to here,

because in Chile, I painted the body a lot,

it was like all figurative and body and fleshy representation,

a little bit gore sometimes.

And when I moved here, I didn't know what to do.

Like, my political context, cultural context

were completely removed, and all of a sudden

I didn't have a sort of home,

in terms of making work. >> BOWEN: You didn't feel

that you could make the same... >> Well, I tried.

They were thought as confrontational,

very hard to relate to.

Um, and that I was sort of, like, constructing otherness.

>> BOWEN: Going back to the bodies,

what were you exploring there in representing the body,

and as you say, to a-a somewhat gory degree at times?

>> Well, so, I grew up in dictatorship.

And in the '90s, early '90s,

when I started studying art and becoming an artist

and kind of trying to find my voice,

uh, it was the same time

that we started realizing

the abuses to human rights in Chile

and the horrors that people had gone through.

>> BOWEN: People disappeared. >> Many people disappeared.

Many people, many bodies started to being, being unearthed.

And in a way... there was a group of painters,

very young painters-- I was in my 20s, early 20s--

we started painting the body

and putting the body on the streets.

>> BOWEN: You mentioned labor

several times in the interview already.

As we see at Fitchburg and what you've done,

so, process must be incredibly...

to-to put in those hours must be very important to you.

>> Yeah, so... crazy important.

I think that's sort of like...

I-I consider it, like, an ethical mission.

You know, if I'm talking about labor or the labor of others,

I have to put the same amount of labor into making the work.

And also that sort of, like, it makes it parallel,

it links both works together.

(white noise playing on speakers)

>> BOWEN: For your piece "White Noise,"

describe that piece for us. >> So, it's, it's a bridge

in between two times, two periods,

two different types of work.

And it's called the Connector Gallery.

That for me was also, like, super-important.

So, I change the carpet,

and we put it we turn it into a white carpet, super luscious.

And then painted all the walls white

and covered with copper point and copper wool.

And that's kind of crazy.

This, it's, it's crazy, it's very laborious and intense.

My hope with the piece was that we...

that the piece was going to be created

as the exhibition went along,

totally white at the beginning

and then completely marked and change at the end.

And that lusciousness is going to disappear,

but we're going to get this other thing, right, like,

this other type of marks and traces,

and sort of a document of the event

and the experience of being there.

>> BOWEN: It's... there's so much that you see in that piece.

And-and does that, does that factor in?

Do you, do you conceive of the piece first

or do you conceive of what it will take to make the piece?

>> I don't think about how much it's going to take.

That's super-naiïve on my part, and very idealistic and utopic.

I just go into the thing, and I put all my body,

and then it aches for weeks after.

But I knew that that piece needed to be labor intensive.

>> BOWEN: And as you just mentioned,

you have had aches and pains after creating this piece,

because of how much you work.

You literally suffer for your art.

>> Yeah... so that's stupid, right?

>> BOWEN: I don't think so,

not if it's something you're passionate about.

>> No, maybe there's some kind of masochism in my head,

I don't know, but yeah, I-I do.

But I think also that is transparent in the work.

I think it's very visible.

It's not mechanical, it's not machine-made.

Um...

That's very romantic of me to say, maybe,

but it's super important for me that there's that access

from somebody that is coming to see.

"I know how that was made,

"but it still... I can still feel the effect,

and I can connect to the person that made it."

>> BOWEN: I want to ask something I know is a bit

of a political touchstone, but I know it's something

that you've also considered.

And that is how much you're expected to make work

that represents a woman who is a Latina artist.

>> Yeah, I hate that.

That's, that's a strong word.

I am a Latina artist.

I am a woman from Latin America.

I am from Chile.

That comes with the territory.

It's going to come with me.

That's the language I spoke first, right?

But-but I-I do feel sometimes extremely restricted,

reduced to just speaking one discourse.

And I-I really rebel against that.

I don't... I-I, I'm not comfortable with that.

I want to talk about more things.

>> BOWEN: Well, where does the pushback come from?

The people who think that-that your discourse should be narrow,

limited to who... where you came from?

>> Um, well, I think it's just the art world,

what the expectation of the art world in general.

And I think actually I'm easier to "consume,"

in the U.S. in particular,

if I'm working according to the expectations,

But I think that's extremely reductive.

I think there's a little bit of racism there too.

Like, expecting that I can only talk upon my own suffering

from my own experience, but I cannot talk about global matters

that, like, I don't care, or, like, I'm not entitled.

I think that's, that's extremely problematic.

>> BOWEN: Has it become more problematic,

or do you feel it's changing at all?

>> I think it's become more problematic.

I'm constantly torn, I feel like I have to do it,

because it's also a responsibility.

And at the same time, I want to talk about other things too.

>> BOWEN: And, finally, I wanted to ask

about the Rappaport Prize that you just won.

It comes with a nice cash prize as well.

What is that do to-to get a prize like that?

How helpful is it to you?

>> Oh, I mean, it's extremely helpful.

The Rappaport Prize is a recognition

for somebody that's made contributions

to the New England area.

That part of the prize for me was like a, an eye opening,

and that I-I have something to say here,

I've been saying something that has been heard.

Um... I think that part of the prize, more than the money,

was the most important part for me.

like the idea of, like, having built a home too.

>> BOWEN: Well, I, as I'm out there in the world,

I hear so many people talking about you and your work.

Congratulations. >> Thank you so much.

>> BOWEN: Time to make a date now with Arts this Week.

Ready for Thanksgiving dinner?

The Thanksgiving Play will fill your belly with laughs.

It plays through next weekend at Lyric Stage Company.

Monday, take your own spacewalk with a new sci-fi horror play.

X by Flat Earth Theatre runs for two weeks.

MissingThe Office?

It's back Tuesday-- same show, new tune.

The Office! A Musical Parody

plays at the Calderwood Pavilion.

Wednesday marks Russian composer Tchaikovsky's death.

He gave usThe Nutcracker

andSwan Lake before his death in 1893.

He was just 53 years old.

Friday, art meets nature

in Brookline Arts Center's newest exhibition,

Collective Ecologies, on view through December.

Next, from the pages of magazines like theNew Yorker

to the galleries of

the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery,

caricature artist John Kascht

has delivered decades of portraits that pop.

>> There's a conception, and it's a misconception,

that caricature is about distortion.

What makes people think of distortion is that

it's very exaggerated, it's very amplified,

but there's a big difference there.

I'm amplifying in the direction

of what makes that person unique.

My name is John Kascht, and I'm a caricaturist.

Caricature is not cartooning, it's not illustration,

it's not a comic strip.

Caricature is a very specialized form of portraiture.

Like all portraitists,

caricaturists are interested in nailing the likeness.

What it is is a investigation

into exactly what makes a person unique.

And you, you find the things that make you different

from everybody else, and then those things get amplified.

And the more of the nuances that make that person unique

that I can observe and then get into a drawing,

the more complete the likeness is

and the, and the greater the recognition

on the part of the person looking at it

where they say, "Yes, I recognize that person."

I was very much that kid in the back of class

drawing the teachers.

And the thing about me is I never stopped.

I'm still kind of drawing the teachers,

or the authority figures, anyway,

but now it's politicians, performers,

you know, that kind of thing.

I've drawn primarily celebrities

or, you know, notable public figures.

So, when I'm drawing an idea that I have,

I usually do very quick thumbnail sketches,

just to kind of start mapping out

the-the way the piece could look.

I draw on vellum, transparent vellum,

so that if I have something in a sketch that I like,

I'll slide it under a fresh sheet,

draw over the top of it, and keep the parts I like,

don't keep the parts I don't like,

until eventually I've got the fully realized sketch

that I want to paint from.

I use watercolor and paint in light layers of glaze.

Ideally if I have 16 hours to 20 hours on something--

you know, obviously each piece has its own requirements--

but 16 to 20 hours is a great amount of time for me

for an average piece in my style.

>> The Waukesha County Historic Society and Museum

was founded in 1914,

so we've got more than a hundred years behind us

of celebrating what this region, what Waukesha County

has to offer in the world

and what impacts we've made in the world.

Making Faces is our feature exhibition.

The artist John Kascht is originally from Waukesha,

city of Waukesha, graduate of Catholic Memorial High School,

just a mile and a quarter down the road from here.

And so, a really lovely way to celebrate

someone from this part of the world

and-and to really take and appreciate his accomplishments.

The wonderful nature of the work that John does

is that he as the artist gets to retain very often

the original that he makes.

And so he's been kind of sitting

on this incredible back catalog,

30 years' worth of work.

>> The exhibition here is a collection

of about 100-ish pieces that are my favorites.

>> Bill Murray is one of the large-format prints,

and we put him kind of front and center,

right inside the gallery space as you walk in.

So, we really start with just in general

what goes into his caricature and portraiture work,

things like body language,

and also what the process is to get to a finished product.

And really take people on that journey

from appreciating what this artform can be

when it's done to the expert level

that John's able to achieve,

on through its multiple iterations

and-and kind of uses.

My favorite piece is the first piece of work he ever sold.

It's a political cartoon

that he sold to theWaukesha Freeman.

>> One day, I just went down to theWaukesha Freeman offices

with a bunch of my drawings of the teachers, of family members.

And I just, I went in and asked to see the editor,

'cause I had in my mind that I wanted to do political cartoons

because that's where I was seeing caricature work.

Jim Huston is his name,

he was the editor of theFreeman at the time.

I think because he was puzzled he agreed to meet with me--

I was 14--

and amazingly, he said I could submit cartoons to them.

And in retrospect, I realize he did me a great favor,

a great service there, professionally.

He took me seriously at that age.

And I started identifying myself as-as a professional.

>> And to-to start with that piece

and to be able to see

everything that's come after that

is just this incredible story

of what a lifetime of work can do.

>> My favorite things in the exhibition

actually are the sketches,

because, to me, that's where the creativity really is.

The likeness is happening or it's not,

and when it's not, boy, it can be tough.

But then, when I finally capture it,

it really still to me feels like a miracle

when that person is looking back at me from the paper.

With caricature, you think of, you know,

big nose, big chin, big ears.

That stuff's all part of it, but so are nuances

like a person's particular skin tone,

do they slouch, do they sit up straight,

do they use their hands a lot,

are they more contained and don't reveal much.

All of those nuances convey, ultimately,

who we are on the inside.

I'm still amazed that how we hold ourselves outwardly

says so much and-and says so accurately

who we are on the inside.

I feel in some ways

I'm trying to learn about myself one person at a time.

>> BOWEN: And that is all for this edition ofOpen Studio.

Next week, Grammy winner Paula Cole

is talking about a revolution.

>> ♪ Charlotte, she lingered and lived in the shadows ♪

♪ Helping mother in the kitchen for hours and hours ♪

♪ Avoiding the charmers, Svengalis and lords ♪

♪ I sing for the shy girl over minor chords. ♪

>> BOWEN: Plus, how the Insta culture began with Polaroid.

>> You had to participate in the making of the picture.

The thing whirred and clicked.

The-the picture came out and developed slowly.

And that was described as magic.

>> BOWEN: Until then, I'm Jared Bowen.

Thanks for joining us.

And, as always, you can visit us online at wgbh.org/OpenStudio.

And you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter,

@OpenStudioWGBH.

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