Tuesday, February 20, 2007

...all of the above, Judy Pfaff at Rice Gallery, Houston TX

Kelly Ulcak

Judy Pfaff
……all of the above
Rice Gallery, Houston, TX
February 1 – April 1 2007

The openness of Rice Gallery’s entryway allows a good tease to the forthcoming experience of being in one of Judy Pfaff’s installations. The entire front wall from floor to ceiling of the gallery is a transparent glass window that Pfaff has used to hush the installation behind the pane. The window is adorned with corrugated strips of plastic and loose lines of paint that seemed to have functioned as a privacy screen for the working artist during installation. This wall is a precursor to the main event.

If one is familiar with Judy Pfaff’s installations, they are acquainted with her vocabulary of materials. A mix of natural vines, driftwood and wood are in dialogue with steel, nylon rope, artificial colors and paint.

This installation, like most of Pfaff’s work, was fairly basic in terms of color; a dichotomy of black and white called and responded throughout the room with bits of tiny neon slices of rope strung taught from wall to wall. The black and white seemed to further divide the room into two major material sections: the white curled tornadoed steel and the troubled gnarly black grapevines. Even though the visual weight of these materials was delicate and fine, Pfaff uses their erratic nature to dominate as the main focal points of the installation.

But what was in the peripheral was a new character that held its own weight among these other materials. Thin disks of varying thickness and diameter mounted one another toform a wobbly and seemingly unstable column of white saucers. These objects were striking because they had a presence of solid stability despite their appearance. Pfaff trimmed down pieces of Styrofoam and coated them with a dense white paint. One must really know materials to achieve such and effect. She made these ultra light forms appear to have such weight with just a bit of arrangement and paint.

Along the walls were strict but drippy lines that seemed to have been whipped on by a color-soaked thin rope made the wall look like a minimalist drawing. Thousands of these drippy lines were arranged with other small strips of fluorescent lighting that detailed the area. Along the walls, there are also a few bits of simple but unexpected delight. Besides the heavy materials that she uses, Pfaff also utilizes elements like air to activate some dead parts of the installation. A corner lined with string that is spaced apart enough to resemble lines on a music sheet. It is remarkable how well she utilizes space and knows her materials. No part of the space is ignored and all of the spaces in-between the materials are certainly part of the whole even
with nothing occupying.

My first impression of the installation was that of a bit of disappointment because Judy Pfaff seemed to have made a Judy Pfaff. I have seen her materials before and am acquainted with the way in which she uses them, however, there is something to say about how she makes theses opposing materials and open spaces coagulate to form a dynamic and interesting space.

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