A prolific artist, Margo Hoff's exquisite style evolved throughout her career yet was always rooted in the events, people, and places in her life. The human experience was her sole focus, expressed through her eyes alone. Born in 1910 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Hoff began creating white, clay animals at a young age, giving them to her friends and family. At eleven she contracted typhoid fever and was bedridden for a summer. During her convalescence, she drew and made cutouts, and it was during this time that her bold, artistic imagination came alive. She began formal art training in high school and continued her education at the University of Oklahoma, Tulsa. In 1933 she moved to Chicago and attended the National Academy of Art and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Between 1933 and 1960, her Chicago years, Hoff's work was deeply rooted in a figurative, regionalist style. She often used elements of magical realism, and many of her paintings have dreamlike qualities. As a child she learned about color by grinding down rocks, plants, and berries. Her color pallet during the Chicago years is indicative of her early, life color experimentation as she consistently used warm, earth tones in her work. Hoff was a born adventurer and traveled extensively. She lived, worked, taught, and painted in Europe, Mexico, Lebanon, Uganda, Brazil, and China. She also showed at the Denver Art Museum's Annual Western Exhibitions in 1952, 54, 56 and 57. In 1957 she showed along-side Colorado modernist Vance Kirkland at the Denver Art Museum's exhibition, Man's Conquest of Space.
What was once a focus on the representational, her work began to change after 1957 when she saw Sputnik in its orbit around Earth. At that moment, feet firmly placed on the ground, she was able to imagine herself in space, looking down from the cosmos, and what she saw was an abstracted world. She then had the opportunity to peer into an electron microscope where once again she was looking down into what seemed to be a realm of pure abstraction. These two events profoundly changed her perspective and she began to move from figural painting to abstract, geometric collage.
In 1960, Hoff moved to New York City and she began creating collages. Placing the canvas on the ground, and working from all sides, she used strips of painted paper and tissue, and later painted pieces of canvas, glued onto the canvas surface, building layer upon layer, shape against shape, ?action of color next to stillness of color.? She believed these simplified, abstracted forms held the spirit of the subject in the same way poetry reduces words to their essence. These pieces range from aerial cityscapes, to dancers in motions, to flora and fauna, whittled down to geometric shapes and flat, bold colors.
Hoff's work was exhibited widely throughout the United States and in England, France, Italy, and Lebanon. She passed away in New York City at the age of 98, leaving a rich legacy behind.
Margo Hoff's works are in the collections of: The Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
I saw a piece of her artwork in a book and I am now obsessed with her large scale canvas collages.
They're like quilts without the sewing. I love the colors and the compositions and everything about them. I really want to see one in real life. I will have to cross my fingers and hope somebody mounts a retrospective of her artwork at a museum near me someday soon! Or that I win the lottery and can buy a piece to hang in my home.
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