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Hans Hofmann, Artist/Teacher, Teacher/Artist Lesson Plan Two: Introduction to Modern Art: Practice and Principals
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II. Compare and Contrast Other Artists With Hans Hofmann

Students will learn about two artists who were featured in the documentary: Red Grooms and Frank Stella. They also will learn about Stuart Davis, whose color theory may be contrasted with Hofmann’s.

Red Grooms: A Narrative Artist Incorporates Abstract Expressionism

Objectives:

Students will be able to: understand the work of Red Grooms as it relates Hans Hofmann, whom he studied with briefly; understand Groom’s work in terms of his reaction to Abstract Expressionism, use art journals to reflect on their process and plan artwork create three-dimensional cardboard collages that are narratives of daily life.

Time Required:

This lesson may be spread over 5 to 10 50-minute class sessions; it may end with the creation of models as an end in itself, or models may be viewed as prototypes for larger pieces.

Preparation: One or two weeks before the lesson:

Explore www.pbs.org/hanshofmann/legacy_001.html for information on the students of Hofmann

and www.artcyclopedia.com for links to museums that have works by Red Grooms.

Direct students to spend some time each day sketching and/or photographing scenes that represent impressions of people and places in their neighborhoods. All work should be kept in art journals.

Preparation: The day of the lesson:

Assemble the following materials: tempera paint, brushes, cardboard, poster board, glue, masking tape

Procedure:

Note: Use the following to inform the conversation you have with your students:

Red Grooms was born in 1937 in Nashville, Tennessee. He became interested in art as a child in elementary school. After high school, he attended several art schools. Intrigued by Abstract Expressionism, at the age of 20 he attended Hans Hofmann’s Provincetown art school. Grooms soon felt the pull to create narrative art that reflected different character types in their respective settings. Although Grooms’ work is representational, the painterly quality of the Abstract Expressionists is evident in his work.

Have students view the segment of Hans Hofmann: Artist/Teacher, Teacher/Artist that refers to Hofmann’s summer school in Provincetown. Note that at the age of 20, Red Grooms attended this school.

Show images of Red Grooms and Mimi Gross’ City of Chicago (1967) and Ruckus Manhattan 1975 – 76.

Ask students:

  • Knowing that Red Grooms was a student of Hans Hofmann, what surprises you about his work?


  • What connections can you make between Hofmann’s and Grooms’ work (application of paint in a liberal, energetic manner; use of vibrant colors; expressive quality of work)?


As a class, discuss Red Grooms’ style, emphasizing his incorporation of flat figures in a three-dimensional space, his sense of playfulness and wittiness of his pieces (identify how Grooms creates this), popular subject matter as theme, texturally rich and painterly interpretation of everyday life, and expressionistic use of paint.

Direct students in small groups to share the sketches and photographs in their journals, and to discuss which image each will use to grow into artwork in the style of Red Grooms.

In art journals, students sketch their ideas for transforming their two-dimensional images into three-dimensional cardboard collages.

Students create small three dimensional models of their glimpses into everyday life.

Before creating larger pieces, direct students to write in art journals, reflecting on their work. What do they want to communicate? Does any part need to be altered to adapt to the entire piece? What colors will be used? How will paint be applied?

Students construct larger pieces.

Assessment Suggestions:

Assessment may take the form of one-on-one discussion with teacher, self-evaluation; peer evaluation, a display of students’ final projects accompanied by the sketch and art journal entries that led up to the final work (This display would also serve as an extension of the lesson.)

B. Frank Stella: Two Interpretations of Abstract Art

Objectives:

Students will be able to: understand the work of Frank Stella as it relates to that of Hans Hofmann; understand Stella’s work in terms of Abstract Expressionism; use art journals to reflect on their process and to plan artwork; create art based on Stella’s earlier architectural, flat, minimalist canvases or on his; later three-dimensional assemblages.

Time Required:

This lesson may be spread over 4 to 5 50-minute class sessions

Preparation: One or two weeks before the lesson:

Explore: www.pbs.org/hofmann/frank_stella_001.html for Frank Stella’s biography and Interview Excerpts.

Go to: www.artcyclopedia.com for links to museums that have works by Frank Stella.

Print out images of both Stella’s linear, hard-edge two-dimensional work and his later three-dimensional constructions.

Direct students to spend some time each day sketching both linear and rounded Abstract compositions.

Preparation: The day of the lesson:

Log on to www.pbs.org/hanshofmann/texturexploration_001.html and play with the interactive feature “Texturexploration,” allowing viewers to magnify sections of a Hofmann painting for a detailed view of Hofmann’s thick, painterly application of oils. You can later contrast this with Stella’s early hard-edge, flat, smooth application of ordinary house paint on canvas.

Assemble the following materials:

For two-dimensional work: tempera paint, brushes, watercolor paper, templates for creating hard-edge forms.

For three-dimensional work: base: cardboard, adhesive, collage material (mesh, thin wire, construction paper,etc.).

Procedure:

Note: Use the following information to inform the conversation you have with your students:

Although Frank Stella never took a class with Hans Hofmann (he moved to New York the same year that Hofmann retired from teaching to concentrate on painting), he cites Hofmann as a major influence, and even wrote an article naming Hofmann an “Artist of the Century.”

Stella’s work falls into two distinct categories. In the late 1950’s and ‘60’s Stella’s goal was to reinterpret decorative painting in terms of abstraction. In the process, he redefined both terms. Stella reduced his compositions to pure shapes, lines, and colors and pushed these compositions beyond the traditional frame. The paintings are large, engulfing the viewer.

In the 1970’s his art took a sharp turn. This radical change itself is instructive for students. In his desire to make abstraction more “alive”, his work literally pops out from the walls in chunks of swirling, multi-colored forms. These constructions are richly layered and textured, made out of aluminum, metal tubing and wire mesh. They are infused with a vitality not seen in Stella’s earlier works.

By the mid 1980’s and ‘90’s, the work grew so large and looming as to challenge its category of “painting.” Many of the huge works are not unlike stage sets in their monumental presence.

Show images of Frank Stella’s work.

Ask students:

Knowing that Frank Stella was influenced by Hans Hofmann, what surprises you about his work?

What connections can you make between Hofmann’s and Stella’s work? Both are abstract, but how do they differ? Keep in mind that Hofmann emphasized working from nature, while Stella introduced minimalism as a way to reduce art to a concept. Which of Hofmann’s concepts do you think Stella incorporated? How are the two styles different? (Hofmann worked two-dimensionally, yet there is a greater similarity between the two artists when a comparison is made between Stella’s three-dimensional work and Hofmann’s paintings, application of paint in a rich, energetic manner, use of vibrant colors, and expressive quality of work)

Direct students in small groups to share the abstract sketches in their journals. Which do they feel are the most successful and why? Can they visualize the more rounded compositions as three-dimensional pieces?

In their art journals, students sketch their ideas for transforming sketches into either two-dimensional paintings or three-dimensional cardboard collages. Encourage students, if they wish, to adapt Stella’s technique to their original sketches.

Direct students to write in art journals, reflecting on their work. What do they want to communicate?

Will that message be better expressed as a two or a three-dimensional piece? How will paint be applied?

Students create either two-dimensional or three-dimensional works.

Assessment Suggestions:

Assessment may take the form of: one-on-one discussion with teacher, self evaluation, peer evaluation, a display of students’ final projects accompanied by the sketch and art journal entries that led up to the final work. This display would also serve as an extension of the lesson.

C. Stuart Davis and His Conversations with America

Objectives:

Students will be able to understand the color theory of Stuart Davis and apply it to their own work, compare Davis’ color theory to Hofmann’s “push-pull”, and use their art journals as sites to reflect upon the artistic process and plan their work.

Time Required: This lesson may be spread over 4-5 50-minute class sessions

Preparation:

Explore the following websites for information about Stuart Davis and images of his artwork: Select a variety of jazz instrumentals to play in class.

One week before the lesson, ask students to begin collecting photographs from magazines and newspapers reflecting their ideas of the “American Scene”; establish a place where class can store the images.

Have art materials available: construction paper (cut into fourths or sixths), gluesticks, scissors, crayons, color pencils, tempera paints, brushes.

Procedure:

Note: Use the following to inform the conversation you have with your students. Lead them to discover elements in his work, rather than be told what they are:

Stuart Davis’ paintings are dialogues between the artist and the contemporary American Scene. He admired, among many other things in the United States, the urban environment, jazz, and modern technology. He conveyed the dynamic energy of contemporary life through abstract shapes and vivid colors. Davis believed that three-dimensional space could be shown on a two-dimensional surface by the way in which color forms were placed in relationship to each other; colors recede and advance depending on their position. Much of Davis’ work does not have a single focal point, giving the surface an all-over design.

  1. Students break into small groups. Distribute “American Scene” images collected by students and direct students to come up with words or short phrases that describe their images.

  2. With a jazz recording playing, ask an individual or a group of students to display the image and read their lists aloud. Encourage improvisation.

  3. Introduce students to the work of Stuart Davis with works such as Report from Rockport (in the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Hot Still-Scape for Six Colors – 7th Avenue Style (in the Boston Museum of Fine Art).

  4. Ask students to discuss in their smaller groups the similarities and differences between Davis and Hofmann. Encourage the use of words such as color, tone, line, form, space, abstraction, pattern.

    (Remind students of Hofmann’s interest in creating a sense of depth in his work; how is this accomplished by Davis?)

  5. Bring class together to share observations. Note that the artist’s work has a cohesive, planned quality that often was achieved through the reworking of numerous sketches.

  6. Direct students to select 5 different colored pieces of construction paper and experiment with placement of colors. What happens when one color is placed next to another; which recedes and which advances? All observations should be noted in students’ art journals.

  7. Explain the steps students will take to create an abstract work incorporating Stuart Davis’ process:

    • using pencil, sketch a simple design in your art journals (it should have the effect of a coloring book image with no shading)

    • using a copier, make 3 reproductions of the work

    • with color pencils or crayons, experiment with different color arrangements to get the desired effect of receding and advancing forms (Davis often used a limited palette of 5colors; 2 primary, 1 secondary, black and white.

    • copy the design to a larger paper and use tempera paints to complete

  8. Students write in art journals, reflecting on the process and the outcome. Work is shared with peers.

  9. Students repeat this process, now directed to create a design that reflects elements of the American Scene that they each identified at the start of the project.

  10. Students write in art journals reflecting on the process and the outcome. Work is shared with peers.
Assessment Suggestions:

Assessment may take the form of: one-on-one discussion with teacher, self evaluation, peer evaluation, a display of students’ final projects accompanied by the sketches and art journal entries that led up to the final work. The list of words and phrases describing the American scene also should be included.

Extensions:

The museum exhibition is entitled Hofmann/Davis: Masters of Color. The location of the museum is your school. Using reproductions of the work of Stuart Davis and Hans Hofmann, student work based on the study of their color theories, and student research, create a museum installation complete with wall text, brochures and guided tours. (continued)

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