IMAGES: Frederick Hammersley’s hunches

Is it possible to be an emerging artist when you’re dead? Yes.

Frederick Hammersley (American, 1919-2009) worked in Los Angeles for many years, until in the late ’60s when he was nearly 40, he accepted a teaching position at the University of New Mexico and moved to Albuquerque. After teaching there for a few years, he quit to devote more time to painting.  Hammersley has never been well known in New York, although he had a two-person show at Artists’ Space in 1987, and Dave Hickey included his work in �Beau Monde: Toward a Redeemed Cosmopolitanism� at 2002 Site Sante Fe, which boosted his reputation. Last September, Hammersley had a  posthumous NYC solo show at Ameringer McEnery Yohe, and Roberta Smith, comparing his paintings to work by Thomas Nozkowski, Carrie Moyer, and Andrew Masullo, declared that his work seems “very much of the moment.” Venice, California, gallery LA Louver has plans to mount a solo exhibition in March.

“My painting begins with a hunch, no plan, no theory, just a feeling
to make a shape,” Hammersley explained in a 2003 exhibition statement. “That shape dictates what and where the next will go, and so on.” 

Frederick Hammersley, Even steven, 2000 – 2002,
oil on linen
11 x 8 1/2 inches. Private collection, Aspen, Colorado 

 Frederick Hammersley, Savings & Loan, 2001
oil on linen
14 x 12 inches.

Frederick Hammersley, Option open, 2000
oil on linen
10 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches. 

Frederick Hammersley, Goal rush, 1997 – 2002
oil on linen
8 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches,
Private collection, Los Angeles, California.
Frederick Hammersley, Knew to me, 2000
oil on linen
12 x 10 inches.

Hammersley made two distinct types of paintings that he called the organics (pictured above) and the geometrics. The geometrics, made early in his career, were carefully planned from sketchbook studies and rooted in grid structures, while the organics, which he began making in the 1980s, were  more intuitive. 

Frederick Hammersley, Savoir pair, 1978, #13, oil on linen, 48 x 48 inches.


IMAGES is a regular feature devoted to painters who deserve more love.


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  1. Thanks for posting Sharon! Really enjoy his work.

  2. Was blown away by one at LACMA last weekend

  3. Good call on mentioning Frederick Hammersley! I took the time to read "Birth of the Cool" over a year ago and was introduced to such great West Coast painters like Hammersley and Karl Benjamin.

  4. Frederick Hammersley has some really outstanding images.

  5. A beautifully installed, gem-like show at LA Louver–one of my favorites of 2012. Quite a few works are very small, some mounted to linen, but one of the revelations of these smaller works are Hammersley's frames which he made by hand in his studio.

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