Interview: Alec Coiro
Photos Courtesy of the Artist and Volume Gallery
The sculptures of Jennefer Hoffmann are unmistakably her own. They are wrought completely by her own hands almost always without the use of tools, and they spring from the spontaneity of her interaction with the slabs of material. When the work is complete, we have art that, according to Hoffmann, tells the story (loosely) of “the human condition, daily observations, feelings, aspirations, love, sadness, loss, living.”
The relationship with Volume gallery and Hoffmann is beginning with her participation with them at NADA this coming week. While her gallery career is just taking off, her work has already been seen (and bought) at boutiques like Maryam Nassir Zadeh, A Détacher, and Anaïse. The work she shows has a delicacy about it (indeed she drove her work to Maryam Nassir Zadeh rather than risk shipping it!), and her sculptures for Volume take on striking color combinations. While it’s tempting to ask Hoffmann to delve into the meanings behind the form and color of her work, she seems happiest to present the sculptures to the viewer and let them interpret, even suggesting the viewer impose his or her own color choices on the piece.
Read on for the full interview, which begins with the tale of how she orbited the worlds of art and fashion for many years until she settled in Chicago and took up sculpture.
How did you make the transition from fashion design to sculpture?
I was never a designer I just worked closely with many friends that were clothing designers. I attended Parsons school of Design for Design Marketing but always made art of some sort. When I moved to NYC from Canada in the mid nineties I became friends with a group of RISD graduates and that began to expose me in a real way to art and artists. However, I still needed to complete the Parson’s program. While I was still in that program I met Miguel Adrover and we became very close. He had a store called Horn at that time. He wanted to do a line of his own and I helped him with that. All the while I always drew and painted at home but for one reason or the other I never allowed myself the complete commitment to making art. Finally years later 2013 to be exact I moved to Chicago and began taking a ceramics course at the Hyde park art Center. It was very quickly that I abandoned throwing bowls and began hand building with the clay and making more sculptural and emotive work. And so it began…
Can you tell a little about your show at Volume Gallery, and the very particular, almost two-tone color palettes you’ve created for the work you’re showing there?
The work you see at Volume is a selection of pieces they are taking to NADA. Our relationship is just beginning in this very exciting way. The color you see is more based on the particular selection of pieces they picked to go. I do not use glaze and color so easily. I think color can really ruin a piece if it is not well done. If I can achieve the feeling without it I will leave a piece without color, well I mean unglazed or painted the clay does have a color. I almost think when it is successful the viewer will feel the color they want or that I might has intended in my thoughts. I am drawn to color that elevates the original expression rather than distracts from the emotion I was feeling in the moment.
Your ceramic work is also available in a number of stores we’re big fans of. How did you develop these relationships, and is there a difference between the work you make for your gallery shows and the work you show in these stores?
I have not had any gallery shows yet. Well, originally before I developed a relationship with Volume I wanted people to see the work to find a way to get it out there. I never thought they were ideal for retail as they are not easy to ship among other things. Maryam Nassir Zadeh was someone I met while doing work with BLESS. I truly appreciated her artful spirit and her shop has a flavor that I knew the work would look beautiful in. I approached her and she was kind enough and felt connected to the work so it was a relationship that made sense. I then met Renee from Anaise. She visited me in Chicago which was so wonderful. She had originally seen my work at A DETACHER when I made a few very simple plates in the beginning and asked if she could get some for her shop in California. We stayed in touch even though I stopped making the plates. Again an extremely special, kind and thoughtful woman. This also was prompted by a connection rather than just wanting to place them in a store. In fact for Maryam I drive the work from Chicago because I am so fearful of shipping some of them. With Anaise I shipped a few pieces and thankfully they made it! I am now doing one more shop in England called Hostem and placing some pieces in their New Road Residence, which I am excited about. But I think this might be it for shops. The pieces really require some art handling and I think this has always been the limitation for a retail environment.
I really love this idea of the open object. A piece of work that allows the viewer to have her or his own dialogue with the piece and to be moved or repulsed by it for their own reasons.
We can see the traces of your tools and perhaps even your hands in many of your sculptures; there are also pieces that look like they’ve been torn and have a fragileness about them. The fact that we can see the evidence of your process makes me curious about the process itself. How carefully do you plan out each piece before you start shaping it? And how do you determine when a piece is complete?
So I rarely use tools. They all begin with slabs. and my hands. When I first started I had no plan, each piece was a spontaneous creation made very quickly. However just recently and with what I feel is a real development of my own language with the clay, I do sometimes think ahead of time of what the piece is about. but it is never an exact replication. The piece is usually based on a feeling or an insight or a sensation and it takes shape as I begin. The piece is “complete” based on instinct I guess and when I think it visually is balanced and makes sense. but I never know when that may be exactly. Sometimes I start something and it takes a very different turn within the process of the construction.
What are some of the stories you want to tell through your sculpture?
I cannot be to specific here . I really love this idea of the open object. A piece of work that allows the viewer to have her or his own dialogue with the piece and to be moved or repulsed by it for their own reasons. I can say loosely they are about the human condition, daily observations, feelings, aspirations, love , sadness , loss, living…
Finally, what’s it like living with 4 cats? What are their names?
Haha I need to take that out of the Bio!!! Dara, Clement, Tomaz, and Ola.