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Frederick Hammersley Remembered

Frederick Hammersley, abstract painter, born in 1919, died peacefully on Sunday, May 31, 2009 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the age of 90. Hammersley is known as one of the Los Angeles-based 'Abstract Classicists' whose work gained international attention through the exhibition Four Abstract Classicists at the Los Angeles County Museum in 1959.

The term 'hard edge' was coined at the time to describe the geometric, abstract paintings by Hammersley, Karl Benjamin, Lorser Feitelson and John McLaughlin.

Hammersley attended Chouinard Art School from 1940-42 and 1946-47, served in the Army from 1942-46, studied at the Ä’cole des Beaux Arts in 1946, and attended Jepson Art School from 1947-50.  He taught at Jepson, Pomona College, Chouinard, and the University of New Mexico until the early 1970s when he began painting full time.  His mature works are comprised of the “hunch” paintings (1953-59), the  'geometrics' (1959-64 and 1965-the mid-1990s), and the 'organics' (1964, and 1982-2009).  They are included in the collections of  Albright Knox Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art, High Museum of Art, La Jolla Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Orange County Museum of Art, Pomona College Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, The Albuquerque Museum,  New Mexico Museum of Art, Roswell Museum, and the University of New Mexico Art Museum, among others.

A consummate draftsman, Hammersley formed the edges of the shapes in his paintings with a palette knife, never using tape or a mechanical device to form a straight edge. The unique frames he made for his small organic abstractions added an almost folk-art quality to his otherwise strictly modernist paintings.  His titles, which he also considered part of his works, often presented intended double meanings or reflected the actions of the forms within the composition.  

Frederick Hammersley moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1968 to assume the position of Assistant Professor of Art at the University of New Mexico and remained in Albuquerque until his passing.  Hammersley is survived by his sister Susie H. Stone, of Santa Fe.  There will be a memorial service on June 20 at 1 p.m. at the University of New Mexico Alumni Chapel.

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