Depictions of Memories

May 29, 2012

New exhibit brings well-known British artist Howard Hodgkin’s works to 
D.C.

The new Luther W. Brady Art Gallery exhibition “Howard Hodgkin: Paintings” includes 11 paintings created over a span of decades, ranging from the early 1980s to just last year. Many of the works took several years to complete, as the artist revisited pieces and added to them over time, evoking memories of events past.

The exhibition includes several works that have never been shown in Washington, D.C., before, as well as a number of pieces loaned from private collections.

Mr. Hodgkin, who turns 80 this summer, is a British artist who has been showing his paintings internationally for more than four decades, in venues that have included the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, the Tate Britain in London, and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.

Director and Chief Curator of University Galleries Lenore Miller, M.F.A. ’72, called Mr. Hodgkin’s work “textural” and “evoking a mood that is both descriptive and timeless.”

GW organized an exhibition of prints by Howard Hodgkin in 1994, titled “Howard Hodgkin Prints: Vision and Collaboration,” but Ms. Miller said the new exhibition is “a rare opportunity to see more recent works by this artist.”

Although Mr. Hodgkin was not able to attend the May 16 opening event at the Brady Gallery, the paintings on display are an excellent representation of the artist’s style, said Luther W. Brady, B.A. ’46, M.D. ’48, a well-known oncologist and the gallery’s founding benefactor.

“Howard’s exhibitions are emotional reactions to events that have occurred,” Dr. Brady said. “It sometimes takes several years for him to finish a piece, and the ideas may incubate for a long time.”

Many of the works included in the exhibition are painted on found objects rather than canvas, including 2007’s “Transatlantic,” which uses a wooden cutting board, and “In Egypt,” a large work from 2008 that uses a backdrop of plywood. “Dark Moon,” which is painted on the seat of a wooden stool, uses bold brushstrokes to depict light and darkness. Mr. Hodgkin started the piece in 1982 and completed it in 1984.

“[Mr. Hodgkin] told me that he works on board now, rather than canvas, because ‘Board fights back and canvas doesn’t,’” Dr. Brady said.

Christopher Dolan, a professorial lecturer of drawing in GW’s Department of Fine Arts and Art History, suggested that visitors to the gallery look at Mr. Hodgkin’s work holistically.

“There is a danger of only looking ‘for’ something like a landscape or a still life [in his paintings],” Mr. Dolan said, explaining that viewers should step back and consider the entire works, rather than seeking out recognizable forms.

Mr. Hodgkin was recently commissioned to create a poster for the 2012 London Olympic Games. His poster, called “Swimming” uses abstract swirls of bright blue paint.

“I thought it was a bold move on the Olympic Committee’s part to choose people for posters who work non-representationally,” Mr. Dolan said.

Artist Michael Craig-Martin, who also exhibited at the Brady Gallery earlier this year, was asked to create an Olympic poster as well.

“Howard Hodgkin: Paintings” will be on display through July 13. The Brady Gallery is open to the public Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

GW Research Blog