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Installation offers artist ‘opportunity to engage with the street’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Ribbons and wisps of wood orbit and spiral around upside-down sawhorses like some kind of warped helix.

At first, they seem like a random collection of Home Depot discards rising to the gallery’s 25-foot ceiling.

But a closer look exposes deliberate patterns of shape and light amid the cacophony of chaos.

“Putting this together is a balancing act,” painter/sculptor and artist Karl Hofmann said.

The Albuquerque artist’s installation “In the Balance” snakes, swirls and climbs across the windows, above the door and inside the main gallery at 516 Arts. Created from plywood, poplar, plastic and metal, the creation mirrors the imbalance of the world today, Hofmann said.

Organizers chose Hofmann’s playful piece out of about 15 submissions, 516 curator Josie Lopez said.

“We were really interested in artists who were able and willing to engage with that front window space,” she said. “We also saw it as an opportunity to engage with the street. You actually walk through the art as you enter the space. It makes it exciting in that you get different perspectives.”

Hofmann moved to Albuquerque from New Orleans to complete his master in fine arts degree at the University of New Mexico. His work is a hybrid of pop, dada and expressionism combining the organic geometry of Kandinsky with Marcel Duchamp’s “ready-made” found objects.

“In the Balance” mixes two-by-fours with soaring ribbons of poplar joined with metal and plastic clamps. A silver trash can hugs a bouquet of plywood stems.

“The idea is to create an aesthetic spectacle out of commonplace materials,” Hofmann said. “All of this stuff has its own visual language. It adds tension to the space. If I take the clamps off, the whole piece will collapse.”

Lifting materials from big-box hardware stores came easily to an artist who built his own stretchers and rehabilitated his own “faux adobe.”

“You start seeing these patterns of wood —— the psychedelic patterns of plywood when they’re juxtaposed in a pile,” he said. “There’s beauty in that.

“It was almost like playing with Legos. It came naturally and intuitively.”

The title springs from a world Hofmann sees as teetering toward imbalance.

“I’m balancing things in place, especially with these poplar ribbons,” he said, gazing overhead at the undulating ribbons of wood. “Then you start joining and connecting them. In my work, I’m always balancing to create and order, which is part of the sense I have of the world I live in. I think it is a direct reaction to all the uncertainty in the world. It gives me a sense of calm.”

Hofmann was an artist in residence at China’s DaWang Culture Highland and is the recipient of the Arnold W. Brown Endowed Scholarship, the Florence Henri Prize and the Harry Nadler Memorial Fellowship, among others. His work has been exhibited internationally. He works in graphic design at Central New Mexico College.

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