Jersey Devil, 1972
elm with paint
28 x 8 x 7 in. (71.1 x 20.3 x 17.8 cm.)
The Tabernacle, c. 1974
39 x 15 x 16 in. (99.1 x 38.1 x 40.6 cm.)
Toothed Whale, n.d.
painted yellow spruce
21 x 49 x 9 in. (53.3 x 124.5 x 22.9 cm.)
American, 20th century.
Born 1915, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; died 1993, Absecon, New Jersey.
Born in Philadelphia in 1915, Hoffman was forced to leave school after the eighth grade due to the onset of the Great Depression. As a child, he collected junk metal and painted simple scenes on neighbors' doors. After World War II, where he saw combat serving in the Navy, Hoffman returned to New Jersey to marry, settling down in the coastal town of Absecon, close to Atlantic City, where he established a thriving junkyard.
Hoffman was a prolific carver whose work spans several genres. An important context for his practice is the rich vernacular tradition of Jewish Folk carving brought to America by generations of immigrants, which has yielded countless Torah arks, synagogue furniture, and Biblical narratives, as well as secular genres such as carousel horses that have become an integral
part of American cultural history. Hoffman was not devoutly religious, but his Jewish identity was of great significance to him, especially when considering works such as The Ark, Tabernacle, and many of his smaller reliefs.
Hoffman's quintessentially outsider transformation of the familiar to the archetypal can best be seen in works that explore his relationship to the sea, drawn from memories of Naval service, his shore life, and his rich imagination. It isn't hard to find rustic carvings along eastern boardwalks, but his monumental Toothed Whale, and uncanny Neptune, King of the Sea, mark this artist's departure from the commonplace. It is where Hoffman joins his global outsider counterparts in a transcendent realm of vision and youth.
- Courtesy of Andrew Edlin Gallery
2013, Albert Hoffman, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York
2012, Accidental Genius: Art From the Anthony Petullo Collection, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee
2007, Sculptor of Wood, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York
1999, Albert Hoffman, Luise Ross Gallery, New York
1997, For the Love of Art: Folk Carvings by South Jersey Artist Albert Hoffman, Noyes Museum, Oceanville (New Jersey)
1997, Lion Invitational, B'nai B'rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum, Washington, D.C.
1995, The Tree of Life, American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore
American Folk Art Museum, New York
Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Williamsburg (Virginia)
Noyes Museum, Oceanville (New Jersey)
Stone, Lisa, ed., Accidental Genius: Art From the Anthony Petullo Collection, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, 2012.
Edlin, Andrew, Sculptor of Wood, exhibition catalogue, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, 2007.
McBee, Richard, "The Outsider Complex: Jewish Folk Artists of Our Time," Jewish Press, May 30, 2003.
Johnson, Ken, "Albert Hoffman at Luise Ross," New York Times, July 16, 1999.
Kent, Bill, "Obscure No More: A Self-Taught Sculptor's Path from the Boardwalk to the Galleries," New York Times, July 6, 1997.