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Marcia Hafif

Marcia Hafif (b. 1929; d. 2018, California) was a renowned painter of experimental canvases that suggest both minimalism and process art explored over six decades. 

"I find a subject that interests me, inspiring a desire to know more, then find a way to do that using drawing, photography, painting, or sculpture. The subject can be anything from designing a museum to the writing of foreign calligraphy, from naming weeds to making ice in the desert using cold night winds. Or grinding dry pigments into oil making paint and preparing a traditional canvas support. For me they are all experiments for the purpose of seeing more closely. What does that color of red look like alone?" she wrote. 

 

Throughout her career, Hafif engaged with the act of mark-making and drawing, channeling her exploration of form and line into works that maintained a delicate balance between intention and spontaneity. In 1972, Hafif came to a personal and process-based practice of working, beginning a series of monochrome works or "color experiments," as she dubbed them. At a period when the relevance of painting was in question, she concluded that the only way to proceed was to focus on, as she wrote in Artforum, "the materials and techniques with which art is made."

During the 1960s and 1970s, critics began arguing that monochromatic paintings erased the artist’s hand, but Hafif’s compositions work against that theory. Her pieces are filled with life, from the methodical brushstrokes and drips in her paintings to the visible differentiations in material. As Gregory Volk wrote, "Nothing is representational in these paintings, but they still evoke—whether or not intentionally—things in the world: the way wind sweeps across a sandy beach, the facades of buildings, the color of the sky or of the earth in 'a certain slant of light,' as Emily Dickinson put it in her famous poem."  In this sense, Hafif’s practice lays claim to painting as a personal as well as conceptual undertaking.  

 

Hafif's work has been exhibited extensively in museums internationally including MoMA PS 1; MAMCO, Geneva; Laguna Art Museum, CA; Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland; Pomona College Museum, California; Hammer Museum, California, FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon, France; Lenbachhaus Munich; Tate Modern, London. 

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