Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

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Those who work with Andrew Hoffman during the day at the design studio call him an artist. His nighttime, painterly friends refer to him as a designer. Either way, he’s not too concerned. For the Colorado native, design and art are only percentages of his life. Just look at his work – his design or his art – and it’ll tell you a lot about the diversity of who he is and what he does.

Because he does lots of things: he travels. He is a runner. He plays basketball. Skateboards. Screenprints shirts. Draws. Paints. Teaches.

I like the combinatorial outcome of Andrew Hoffman’s life. What he creates on paper, on a blank canvas: it’s clean. The objects seem to possess an understanding of the space around it. Often, it’s playful. And it’s all probably on account of the fact that his art is based in design theory. And, his design is based in his art theory.

It’s all about spatial relations. Computational geometry. And lots and lots of his and my favorite thing: typography. Letters in paintings. Words on canvases: I enjoy this done well, but nearly in any manner - especially when it informs the piece. But Hoffman manages to pull it off with more precision. As though he used a drafting table. A ruler, and not only for straight edges. These letters, these word forms are playful, they bare their importance to the composition as much as the ink does.

He was raised in Bailey. Went to school in Gunnison. Then he came to Denver to work in an ad agency. He toughened his hide. Received some more schooling for fine art. Began conceptualizing.

Boxcar from Andrew Hoffman on Vimeo.

Hoffman does things like: shop for domain names at work and then, once the discovery is made: Nobody owns Denver Clothing Company. Maybe I should buy it. Then: I guess I should do something with it. So, what he did was decide to print limited-run shirts. 25 at a time. “No Coast” is one of those shirts.

It’s a love letter. All of his work: a love of letters. They’re everywhere. Alone, a single letter is the most abstract thing we own as a culture. Strung together and it’s the most commonplace thing we share, together. Even for the pedant, Hoffman makes language fun again. He reminds us of how beautiful each character is. How its presence is violence and impactful, changing within a space. Extending this even further, he adores the traditional sign painters – you know, the ones that painted on sides of buildings. Those old signs a couple flakes of paint away from their hundred year old death.

His chopping block piece: that axe in the bleeding stump - is painted all with sign painter’s paint. Brilliant, even if nobody else needs to know that. His “Hoop Dreams” is a commentary on that undefined space between your late-adolescence and becoming adult; that day you realize how sore you are after playing a pick-up game – realizing how you’re getting older now and how weird that is to conceptualize while looking at your Air Jordans.

Hoffman’s not much into Artist Statements. Luckily, his work speaks for itself. Maybe it’s the letterforms, but mostly it’s his whimsical sense. The fact he’s not too rigid at any turn. His joke, his idea is cut from that advertising background: be clever, but clear. Get your point across and walk away. Give them something else, another time.

Because everything is only a percentage within him, Hoffman has grown a tough skin. Don’t like his art? Fine, he does commercial design and is obviously good at it. Think he’s taken some lame jobs? Well, he’s a working artist and to live a deliberately creative life, all while articulating the joys that you have created is a virtue of the highest caliber.