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Frederick Hammersley

Frederick Hammersley (January 5, 1919 – May 31, 2009) was a critically acclaimed American abstract painter whose participation in the landmark 1959 Four Abstract Classicists exhibit secured his place in art history.

His studies later took him back to Idaho, at Idaho State University in Pocatello from 1936 to 1938 and then to Los Angeles for the Chouinard Art Institute starting in 1940.  There he studied everything from figure painting to letteringand his instructors included Rico Lebrun.  His artistic training was interrupted by a stint in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and Infantry as a graphic designer.  His World War II service in England, Germany, and France was from 1942 to 1946.  Fortuitously, he was stationed in Paris near the end of his service, and he took the opportunity to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in 1945. During this period, Hammersley met Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Constantin Brâncuşi, visited their studios, and made sketches.  Hammersley returned to the U.S. and resumed his studies at Chouinard (1946), with financial assistance from the G.I. Bill.

A year later, he continued his art education at the experimental Jepson Art Institute for another three years.  He began a teaching career at Jepson in 1948, staying until 1951. Subsequent teaching positions included Pomona College (1953–62), Pasadena Art Museum (1956–61), Chouinard (1964–68), and University of New Mexico (1968–71).  Hammersley died on May 31, 2009 at his home in Albuquerque.

His work is in the collections of museums across the country, including LACMA, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

  • Hammersley first gained widespread acclaim when his paintings were featured in the landmark Four Abstract Classicists exhibit, which also showcased the work of Karl Benjamin, John McLaughlin, and Lorser Feitelson.  This 1959 exhibit was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and curated by Jules Langsner, who, with Peter Selz, coined the term “hard-edge painting” to describe the work of these artists.
  • The exhibit, which traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London and Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, was praised for its presentation of cool abstractions which were very different from the emotional ones of the established abstract expressionist movement.
  • He moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1968 and took a teaching position at the University of New Mexico; he stopped teaching in 1971 so that he could concentrate full-time on painting.
  • In 1973 he was honored with a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in painting
  • He received National Endowment for the Arts fellowships in 1975 and 1977
  • “Hunch” paintings, produced from 1953 to 1959, start by laying down an initial shape.
  • “Geometrics” are orchestrated compositions of sharp geometric forms, painted from 1959 to 1964, and from 1965 to the mid-’90s.
  • “Organics” consist of freely curving shapes inspired by the natural world. These works, produced in 1964 and from 1982 into the 2000s, and also contain interlocking shapes.
  • In addition to paintings, Hammersley also produced photographs, computer-generated art, prints and drawings.

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