The possibilities of paper are explored in a new exhibition that opens Feb. 6 at the Toledo Museum of Art. Nearly 200 one-of-a-kind and limited edition artist books, dimensional prints, collages and experimental works will be shown in Drawn, Cut & Layered: The Art of Werner Pfeiffer. Some of the works will be seen publicly for the first time.
“What really stands out is how diversely creative and productive Werner Pfeiffer is,” said Toledo Museum of Art Director Brian Kennedy. “Because of the caliber of his creativity, we felt he deserved a major exhibition.”
Pfeiffer has used paper as both a canvas and a structural material for the past 50 years. As a sculptor, printmaker and painter, he is fascinated with machines and machine-like constructions. His drawings are schematic and his complex books have intricate moving parts.
Those influences and a fascination with puzzles, metaphors and word play have inspired works that are thought-provoking in themselves, said exhibition curator Thomas Loeffler. “When people see these works all together we hope they will be inspired to take the time to be creative themselves,” Loeffler said.
Among works in the show are Hocus Pocus, an homage to Dada, an artistic movement born out of negative reaction to the horrors of World War I; Zig Zag, a book in which Pfeiffer investigates the nature of paper, creating a double accordion fold to show that “paper is not only a surface but has architectural structure”; and The Banana Drawings, a series of drawings with seven basic images that reoccur in different configurations, in a combination of drawing and silkscreen prints.
Also on view will be Liber Mobile, in which the alphabet becomes a visual element. The piece was inspired by the writings of Marshall McLuhan (who famously pointed out that “the medium is the message” in the 1960s). The letterforms simulate interpretive content, suggesting legibility, but the artwork is simply an interaction of form and color.
While influenced by his contemporaries, Pfeiffer’s earliest memories of life in Germany during and after World War II have impacted his work the most. “There was no paper; there were no books. Censorship was everywhere. Since childhood I’ve always been sensitive to what is being done to books and with books,” the 77-year-old artist has said.
Click meDrawn, Cut & Layered will be on view Feb. 6-May 3, 2015 in TMA’s Canaday Gallery and Gallery 1. The exhibition is made possible by Museum members and in part by funding through the Ohio Arts Council sustainability grant program. Admission to the exhibition and to the Museum is free. For more information, visit toledomuseum.org.
A related free exhibition, Werner Pfeiffer Selects, will be on view Feb. 13-May 10 in the Works on Paper Gallery. Pfeiffer reveals some of the inspiration behind his creativity by choosing works on paper from the TMA collection by artists who have influenced him. Among the nearly 100 selections are books and prints by recognized Modern masters Henri Matisse, Hans Arp and Max Ernst, and works by contemporary artists such as Lucas Samaras, H.A. P. Grieshaber and Warja Honegger-Lavater.
About the Artist
A resident of Red Hook, New York, Werner Pfeiffer was born in 1937 in Stuttgart, Germany. After immigrating to the United States in 1961, he pursued a career in design and art direction, becoming an art professor at Pratt Institute and director of the Pratt Adlib Press in 1969. He retired from Pratt in 2002.
His books, collages, drawings, prints, paintings and sculptures have been shown in more than 100 group exhibitions and more than 70 solo shows internationally. His award-winning designs have been widely published in magazines such as Print, Modern Publicity and Art Direction. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the 9/11 Memorial Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), among others.
The exhibition catalog being produced by TMA is a multimedia e-book containing an exhibition checklist; an introduction by exhibition curator Thomas Loeffler; an essay by Pfeiffer explaining the role of paper in his art and the influence of the digital age; videos of Pfeiffer speaking about and demonstrating his work; a video conversation between the artist and the Museum’s director; and an interactive animation of one of his artist books. “It’s perhaps ironic to create an e-book for an artist who uses paper as his primary medium, but it gives us the opportunity to better show the nature of Pfeiffer’s books, which are meant to be handled and unfolded. It’s an interactive way to digitally demonstrate how his books move and re-form,” said Paula Reich, head of interpretative projects and managing editor.
Paper Manipulation with Werner Pfeiffer
Feb. 8: 1-4 p.m.
This one-time only workshop with visiting artist Werner Pfeiffer will introduce participants to the art of paper manipulation. After viewing demonstrations by the artist and his works in Drawn, Cut & Layered, participants will create their own unique work of art. The cost is $50 for Museum members and $60 for nonmembers; register at toledomuseum.org/learn/classes.
FREE Exhibition-Related Programming
Conversation: Werner Pfeiffer and Brian Kennedy
Feb. 7: 2-3:30 p.m., Little Theater
Toledo Museum of Art Director Brian Kennedy will host a Q&A session with Werner Pfeiffer and discuss his experimental artist books, inspiration and career.
Look of Love: An Evening in Celebration of the Color Red
6:30-8:30 p.m. Feb. 12, Glass Pavilion
Celebrate the power of red at this program in honor of the shade. Entertainment will be provided by the Art Tatum Jazz Society, with a menu from the Museum Café inspired by the hue. Color-coordinated garb is encouraged.
TMA Masters Series: Darra Goldstein
Feb. 19: 6-7 p.m., Peristyle
Darra Goldstein is the founding editor of Gastronomica, a food and cultural journal that was a recent winner of the James Beard Foundation Award for publication of the year. She is also the author of four cookbooks: “A Taste of Russia” (finalist, Tastemaker Award); “The Georgian Feast” (winner of the 1994 IACP Julia Child Award for Cookbook of the Year); “The Winter Vegetarian;” and “Baking Boot Camp” (created with the Culinary Institute of America). Goldstein’s talk, Looking at Cookbooks: Seven Centuries of Visual Feasts, will reveal cookbooks as more than just functional manuals for the kitchen, but as aesthetic symbols of our culture. Goldstein will sign books from 7–7:30 p.m. in Gallery 1.
Sunday Family Film Club: The Secret of Kells
March 15: 2-4 p.m., Little Theater
The Sunday Family Film Club is a new program for families that features free screenings of movies, with film choices inspired by current exhibitions in the Museum. The Secret of Kells isan Academy Award-nominated animated film that tells the Celtic story of the creation of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the Bible that is considered an Irish national treasure.
Bananas: An Evening in Celebration of the Color Yellow
March 26: 6:30-8:30 p.m., GlasSalon
This evening of multimedia programming inspired by the sunniest color on the spectrum features literary readings (a treatise on the hue by Alexander Theroux, author of “The Primary Colors”); music (think “Yellow Submarine” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”); film clips (Carmen Miranda’s creative use of bananas as head gear will be explored); and surprise contributions by area artists. The program was inspired by Pfeiffer’s playful Banana Drawings, which are featured in the exhibition.
Interactive Lecture: Word Play
April 2: 7-8:30 p.m., Little Theater
Join Toledo poets in celebration of the look of language with interactive word games and visual poetry collaborations.
Sunday Family Film Club: The Illusionist
April 19: 2-4 p.m., Little Theater
Inspired by Werner Pfeiffer’s use of the words hocus pocus and abracadabra, TMA’s Sunday Family Film Club presents this animated feature about a young girl who finds inspiration from a down-on-his-luck magician.
Something Blue: An Evening in Celebration of the Primary Color featuring Dooley Wilson
April 23: 6:30-8:30 p.m., GlasSalon
This multi-media program featuring a musical performance by Toledo blues artist Dooley Wilson explores the color blue in song, film, writing and more.
Lecture: Artist-Made Books
April 30: 7-8 p.m., Toledo Museum of Art Resource Library
Toledo Museum of Art Head Librarian Alison Huftalen shares limited-edition and one-of-a-kind artist books from the library collection.