In his 2009 exhibition at Blanket Contemporary Art, his first after winning the 2008 RBC Canadian Painting Competition, Jeremy Hof introduces recognizably Minimalist forms into his painting, sculpture and monochromes. I am reminded of Jorge Luis Borges’s story Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, in which Borges proclaims that Menard’s 20th-century word-for-word recreation of Cervantes’s novel is original because of Menard’s strict conceptual controls as well as the 300-year gap between the two (identical) novels. Hof’s work, strongly reminiscent of that made by Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella and Carl Andre in the mid-20th century, necessarily bears the weight of the intervening decades and the new conceptual concerns and interests that have arisen since.
The most magnetic piece in the show is a sculpture reminiscent of Andre’s Equivalent VIII series. But where Andre used store-bought bricks, Hof’s stacked bricks are made of layers of acrylic-latex paint. Someone threw paint on Andre’s sculpture in 1976, four years after London’s Tate Gallery purchased the piece, sending a message that bricks are not art. Hof’s paint bricks seem to offer some sort of reconciliation, combining the formal qualities of both manufactured and art objects. This is not to say they are an act of appeasement, but rather that they hint at an awareness of the difficulty posed by the readymade. Hof’s bricks are not in any real sense bricks. They do not bring forward concerns about purity of form, objectivity and the material world (Andre’s concerns), but rather the hidden forces of manufacture and creation. Their “thingness” is communicated by the way in which they are distinct from actual bricks.
A series of monochromes, while reminiscent of Kelly, offer a subjective sidestep. Where Kelly worked with set sizes, Hof sizes a given work by determining the area required for him to deplete the ballpoint pen or pencil crayon used in its making. In his paintings, Hof does not paint in a conventional sense but rather applies multiple layers of paint that he then sands back, revealing each layer with smaller and smaller circles sanded into the surface. The removal of material competes with its application, and it is this tension between Hof’s hand, his materials and his conceptual controls that generates interest.
While Hof’s work owes a debt to 1960s Minimalism, it steps away from notions of purity and eschews objectivity. His work does not invite a disinterested contemplation of aesthetic qualities; the creator’s hand is too present and his many decisions too visible to afford an objective reading.