Peter Plagens

January 20 - February 19, 2011

The next exhibition at Nancy Hoffman Gallery will be a show of new abstract paintings and works on paper by Peter Plagens, opening on January 20th and continuing through February 19th.

The exhibition, entitled “I Don’t Give a Damn/Every Moment Counts,” derives from Plagens painterly ruminations on the autumn of an artist’s life, which lead in two diametrically opposed directions. “On the one hand,” Plagens says, “I’ve been around long enough to understand that a lot of superficial, attention getting “stuff,” now seems pretty unimportant. I find I don’t give much of a damn about it. On the other, I see from my--let’s use the euphemism ‘mature’--vantage point what the country-rocker Jerry Jeff Walker called ‘the bend in the end’. I know that life is short and getting shorter. So there’s an urgency afoot with me about getting done what I feel needs to be done, especially in the studio. Every moment there counts.”

Plagens’ recent work includes large, loose-edged grayish shapes centered on an almost white ground. “I arrive at each shape improvisationally,” says Plagens. “I like to go at each painting in layers, starting with a mass of roughly made pencil lines and then getting more and more careful in the execution as I go along.” The various gray shapes are both invaded by, and spill out into the form of, smaller line-and-wash configurations with bits of color in them. On top of each of the grayish shapes sits a hard-edged, full- chroma “color badge.” The color badges offer startling contrasts to the overall informal qualities of the rest of the paintings’ surfaces. “The contrast isn’t intentionally symbolic,” the artist says. “It simply has to do with that old chestnut that what’s on the canvas or the paper is simply me--contradictions, dualisms, certainties, uncertainties, inconsistencies, awkwardnesses, occasional insights, and everything else. There’s no getting around that I’m a card-carrying existentialist who thinks the universe is held together with chewing gum and baling wire. It’d be hard for that opinion not to seep somehow into my paintings.”

Since Plagens joined the gallery in 1974, his abstract vision has consistently explored emphatic figure-ground relationships, quirky compositions that pit elegance against clumsiness, and an ongoing concern with color derived from his twin inspirations, 15th Century Flemish painting (he lived in Belgium for almost a year so he could study it closely), and Hans Hofmann. (“Not the push-pull pedagogy,” says Plagens, “but just the beauty of the paintings.”)

Peter Plagens was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1941. He received a B.F.A. degree from the University of Southern California in 1962 and an M.F.A. from Syracuse University in 1964. He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in Painting and from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Fellowship in Painting and a Grant in Art Criticism.

A retrospective exhibition, “Peter Plagens: An Introspective,” showed at the Fisher Museum, University of Southern California in 2004 and traveled to The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio and Columbia College, Chicago. Plagens’ work has been shown in other solo exhibitions at Akron Art Museum, Ohio; The Gallery, Fine Arts Hall, Columbus State University, Georgia; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas Art Museum, Nevada. The artist’s work has also been shown at the Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock; Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio; Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York; Danforth Museum of Art, Framingham, Massachusetts; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Institute of Contemporary Art, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, California; Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas; MoMA P.S. 1, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, California; National Collection of the Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.

His paintings are in the public collections of Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York; The Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; The Denver Art Museum, Colorado; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, California; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; and Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Plagens has also written extensively on art since the mid-1960s, in such publications as Art in America, ArtForum and Newsweek magazine. He has had two novels published-- "Time for Robo” (Black Heron Press, 1999), and “The Art Critic” (online, at, 2008). He is currently at work on a combination memoir and personal history of abstract painting in his time, tentatively entitled, A Simple Country Painter.

Peter Plagens lives in New York City and Callicoon Center, New York.

For additional information and/or photographs, please call 212-966-6676 or email the gallery at

Yours sincerely,

Nancy Hoffman