Judy Pfaff  
Installations and Drawings from the 1980s
Prints From 1987-2003
September 10 – December 24, 2004


Awarded a 2004 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, Judy Pfaff is an artist whose achievements defy stylistic categorization. Since the 1970s Judy Pfaff has mingled drawing, painting, and sculpture in her installation art and this mingling has enriched her development and nourished the generation of artists who followed her. As the centerpiece of this exhibition, the installation titled Horror Vacui, 1988 says it all. Judy Pfaff’s nature abhors a vacuum and she fills every inch of available space with color, line, shapes and texture when invited to exhibit.

Carl Solway Gallery has invited Pfaff to reconstruct a number of her notable installation pieces from the end of the ‘Eighties decade. In this period she gained international prominence in group and solo shows mounted in Cologne, Tokyo, Venice and all the major arts centers of America. Pfaff’s work first appeared in Cincinnati at the CAC in 1980 and again in 1981. Carl Solway Gallery invited her to curate an exhibition "The Level of Volume" for the National Woman’s Sculpture Conference held in 1987 and her work was shown simultaneously at the Gallery and at the CAC during this impressive gathering of talent.

During the development of her artistic career Judy Pfaff has also emerged as an important teacher serving as a visiting artist, artist in residence, lecturer and professor of art at an extensive list of institutions in the USA and abroad. Currently she is Professor of Art and Co-Chair of the Art Department, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. She resides in Kingston, New York and New York City.

Judy Pfaff was born in London, England in 1946. She began her college education in the American Midwest at Wayne State University, Detroit, before earning her BFA at Washington University, Saint Louis, MO in 1971. Graduate school at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut followed and after graduation in 1973 she commenced her exhibition career. Pfaff was included in the 1975 Biennial Exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art and shortly began to collect grants and awards from the NEA, Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters among many others. In 1998 she was the US Representative for the Bienal de Sao Paulo.

Judy Pfaff pioneered the reappearance of the art of installations in the 1970s. Like many academically trained artists of her generation she knew about the European Dadaists who introduced gallery installations in Zurich that combined paintings sculpture and photography with architectural references and Kurt Schwitters who built his Merzbau projects in pre World War II Germany. But apart from some of the hangings at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of this Century gallery in New York, installations never went over big in the United States during the rise and flourish of Abstract Expressionism. Changes in the New York art world in the late 1960s – the introduction of performance art, the blurring of lines between media and more generous spaces for exhibition – conspired to encourage artists like Pfaff who were caught somewhere between painting and sculpture…and drawing too.

Pfaff’s first installations were totally ephemeral, but by the 1980s when her work had gained substantial recognition she began to think about working in more permanent materials, wood, metal and various composition boards to make pieces that could be installed and then de-installed for repeat showings. In this exhibition we have reunited four installations from 1988 through 1991 that remain in the artist’s collection.

Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled

Es Possible, 1989
Painted wiggle board and steel 96 x 144 x 48 inches

Pfaff spends a lot of time in her studio: the television is always on. She began to watch international soccer matches and became attracted to the array of colors worn by the players. The fans added the national flags and their own colorful jerseys and Es Possible was the result.

Horror Vacui, 1988
Painted steel' wire 118 x 258 x 108 inches (variable)

Exemplifies Pfaff’s ebullient generous nature. It is light and airy, instantly appealing and yet rigorously designed so as to appear effortless. Careful calculation results in the cast shadows that mimic the painted discs and the interplay of black, white and grey has been plotted. Despite its size and volumes it evokes a child playing with a bubble wand.

Materello, 1992
Woven magnet wire, steel, blown glass 95 x 125 x 75 inches
Drawing for Horror Vacui, 1988
Mixed adhesive plastics on Mylar with iron frame
103 3/4 X 124 inches (framed)
Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled
Untitled, 1988
Mixed adhesive plastics on Mylar with wood and painted metal
106 x 82 x 5 inches (framed)
Scopa #6 (sette bello), 1988
Mixed adhesive plastics on Mylar
61 1/2 x 42 image; 73 x 50 framed
Scopa #7 (sette bello), 1988
Mixed adhesive plastics on Mylar
60 x 48 inches image; 60 x 56 inches framed
Loaves and Fishes #9, 1988
Mixed media 49 x 31 inches framed
Untitled Untitled    
Melone, 1987
Woodcut 55 x 64 inches
Scopa #1 (setto bello), 1988
Mixed adhesive plastics on Mylar graph paper,
35 1/4 x 47 inches (framed).