Made by Frederick Hammersley (1919-2009) during a prolific period, Less on Lesson No. 14 (1975) represents the intersection of a number of his earlier artistic inquires. As a West Coast abstractionist in the 1950s, Hammersley championed a hard-edge painting style that ran counter to the abstract expressionism dominating the East Coast art scene. Throughout his career, he sought to expand modes of artistic expression but within a predefined set of boundaries.
Hammersley’s fusion of right-brained creativity and left-brained linear thought was a perfect fit for Art1, an early computer art program developed at the University of New Mexico in the late 1960s, of which he was an early user and proponent.
In Less on Lesson No. 14, which was made after his experiments with Art1, a rectangular band of black appears at the halfway point of the painting’s two-foot-square frame. It runs horizontally across the white canvas. The band is divided in two and capped on both ends by orange squares that exists in a 3-1 ratio with the two halves of the band.
“It almost reminds me of a magnet,” says Matthew Rowe, director of the Addison Rowe Gallery, (229 E. Marcy St., 505-982-1533, addisonrowe.art), where the work is included in the exhibit The Color of Form (through Sept. 10). “It has that potentiality and creates a kind of tension.”
Less on Lesson No. 14, like other Hammersley paintings from the 1970s, was based on a grid pattern. The title bears his penchant for wordplay, such as puns and double entendres, which often reflected some vital component of his paintings. Here, it can be seen as a reference to the painting’s minimalist presentation.
“When I look at a piece like this, it expands the question of whether an artwork can be disassociated from the culture that surrounds it,” Rowe says. “He’s not linked to this place the same way that an artist like Raymond Jonson is. For me, this piece is part of that conversation, trying to get people to redefine the art they associate with New Mexico.” ◀