Margo Hoff (1910–2008) was one of the American women artists, often overlooked today, who worked through the same aesthetic and conceptual issues as their more famous male counterparts in the mid-20th century. While in Chicago, from 1933–60, Hoff attended SAIC, exhibited with up-and-coming local art dealers and created work that appears to draw equally from Mexican murals, Midwestern regionalism, early modernists such as Matisse and Picasso, and trends including abstraction and color field painting. Despite this panoply of influences, Hoff’s paintings never come off as scattered or unoriginal. Instead, they burst with life and with the artist’s thoughtful perspective on the world around her.
In the small panel Siesta Upstairs (1945), a sedate scene set in Hoff’s Chicago home, a reverent glow surrounds the tiny form of her daughter, asleep on a massive bed. “Restless City” juxtaposes similarly quiet, contemplative pieces from the 1940s and 1950s with the large-scale canvases Hoff produced in the latter half of her career. These paintings are full of brilliant colors and geometric patterns, abstractions of city streets, busy crowds and—in Reception for the Artist (pictured, 1987)—an aerial view of gallery visitors posed against works of art.
Hoff’s stylized woodcuts are the show’s hidden gems; fortunately, more of these lively prints appear in the handsome catalog. Corbett vs. Dempsey has assembled a fitting retrospective but one that only scratches the surface of Hoff’s 50 years as a successful international artist.