Marcia Hafif is renowned as a painter of experimental canvases that suggest both minimalism and process art. For over six decades, Hafif (1929-2018) created a vast amount of art within which she questioned subjects from the history of painting practices to museum architecture, from constellations to tables and boxes.
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?
In 1947 Hafif enrolled at Pomona College as a creative writing major while taking painting and art history classes. Then, as a junior, she shifted her major to studio art. Her expanded practice encompassed painting, drawing, photography, and writing. In the exhibition “Marcia Hafif: A Place Apart,” the Pomona College Museum of Art places her paintings within a context of sketches, architectural models, photographs, and text, bringing together works that investigate lived spaces, drawing forms, and site-specificity.
A Place Apart includes over 100 artworks, many never exhibited before, and is the first to highlight the more personal and intimate side of Hafif’s drawing practice. Works in the exhibition focus on how naming can lead to concrete acts of drawing and building. The exhibition presents sketches, photographs, plans, models, and artifacts from realized projects such as the Lusthus Wanas in Sweden and Hafif’s mill house in upstate New York; a wide variety of drawing portfolios and sculptures focused on imaginary projects such as The Hut Has No Walls and A Place Apart; and several paintings titled after specific sites: Roman Colors and Pacific Ocean Paintings. Another section of the exhibition includes drawing groups of common forms such as grids, maps, and constellations inspired by the artist’s interest in her surroundings and a new site-specific wall writing piece, Cooking Fish. The exhibition frames how Hafif’s works, while shifting temporally and physically, retain a focus on the world around her—a signature of her practice.
Marcia Hafif: A Place Apart represents a close partnership with the artist. Each element was collaboratively conceived before her untimely passing in April 2018. The exhibition and accompanying publication honor her voice and vision and are dedicated to her memory.