Judy Pfaff

Judy Pfaff – Installation Artist

She Integrates Sculpture, Painting and Architecture

Featured Artists Article by Renée Phillips

In the early 1970s Judy Pfaff established her place in American art as an installation artist.  She integrates sculpture, painting, and architecture into dynamic colorful environments that at once provokes and enchants viewers.

Her work is in the permanent collections of museums throughout the world including the Museum of Modern Art and The Whitney Museum of American Art.

Jufy Pfaff, during her one person exhibition at Garrison Art Center, 2014
Jufy Pfaff, during her one person exhibition at Garrison Art Center, 2014

“Exuberant, Sprawling Sculptures and Installations… Pierce Through Walls…

Her installation work fills space with disparate objects that seem to spring from the walls and floors and then as if by magic freeze as a beautifully organized chaos.

Pfaff is featured in the acclaimed documentary produced by PBS Series “Art 21”.   In the documentary her art is described as “exuberant, sprawling sculptures and installations that weave landscape, architecture, and color into a tense yet organic whole… in which space seems to expand and collapse… Pfaff’s site-specific installations pierce through walls and careen through the air, achieving lightness and explosive energy.”

Judy Pfaf, untitled chairs, 1989
Judy Pfaf, untitled chairs, 1989

Recipient of the “Genius Award”

Judy Pfaff was born in London, England, in 1946. She received a BFA from Washington University, Saint Louis (1971), and an MFA from Yale University (1973). Pfaff lives and works in Kingston and Tivoli, New York.

Although Pfaff’s work refuses to fit neatly into an art movement, she has received numerous fellowships and awards including the coveted “genius award” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Judy Pfaff
Judy Pfaff. “Kandils,” 2012, Chinese honeycomb paper, melted plastic, pigmented expanded foam, 32″ x 17″ x 8 1/2″.

“No One Buys Installations”

During Pfaff’s long career her explosive three dimensional pieces have existed alongside her other seemingly very different creations, such as the mixed media woodcut prints. In these works objects collide on paper and are surprisingly like a steamrolled version of her installations.

In Brian K. Mahoney’s article “Portfolio: Judy Pfaff” in Chronogram Magazine she is quoted as saying, “I’ve always done prints and drawings, always. No one buys those installations, so when you see things that are portable that I’m not attached to, they’re probably two-dimensional. If you get an installation of mine, you inherit (my assistant) Ryan, myself, a crew, the dog, the noise, the dirt. We wreck the house. So if you don’t want that, then you get prints and drawings.”

Judy Pfaff
Judy Pfaff, Rosie’s Bed, 2009, 91” x 91” x 6” Cut, burnt & perforated bond and Crown Kozo paper, joss paper, sheet music, silk & paper flowers, honey comb packaging material, wire, fishing line, coffee filters, ink, kite parts. Courtesy of Judy Pfaff, photographer Rob Van Erve

Her Steadfast Independence

Pfaff has spent four decades teaching thousands of students of art which makes her prolific career as a working artist even more of a cosmic wonder.

Additionally, in the art world of recent decades in which the paradigm has been that artists who do one thing are legitimized over those who do it all, Pfaff clearly rejects that notion.  Her steadfast independence, be it intentional or not, may be one of the reasons that her name does not appear on lists of Post-Minimalist artists.

And according to art critic Roberta Smith, “Ms. Pfaff’s liberated decorative sense may have kept her from being considered the late Post-Minimalist that she is. If the Minimalists revealed space in all its static grandeur and the Post-Minimalists messed with it beyond belief, she has more than carried on.” (Art in Review)

Visit Judy Pfaff’s website www.judypfaffstudio.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *