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Judy Pfaff, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Compulsory Figures, 1991. Woven wire, painted steel, and aluminum duct. 66 x 133 x 107 inches (167.64 x 337.82 x 271.78 cm). Private collection. Photo credit: Will Brown. Judy Pfaff, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Unititled, 1991. Steel, copper, brass, and paint. 102 x 115 inches (259.08 x 292.1 cm) approximately. Collection of the artist.
Judy Pfaff, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Compulsory Figures, 1991. Woven wire, painted steel, and aluminum duct. 66 x 133 x 107 inches (167.64 x 337.82 x 271.78 cm). Private collection. Photo credit: Will Brown.
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Judy Pfaff, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Unititled, 1991. Steel, copper, brass, and paint. 102 x 115 inches (259.08 x 292.1 cm) approximately. Collection of the artist.
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Judy Pfaff

Judy Pfaff approached her residency at the FWM as an opportunity to explore fabric’s three-dimensional qualities. She reflected on its woven structure and began to investigate the fabrication methods of objects usually covered with cloth—lampshades, umbrellas, and mattresses. With the staff of the FWM, these objects were dissected and served as inspiration for a new sculptural series.

At the FWM, Pfaff took her work in an entirely new direction, creating porous, woven sculptures, distinct from previous works made from assembled solid objects. For the series, various metal wires (steel, copper, brass) were woven into circular shapes and tubular forms; in some places the weaving is delicate and intricate, in others coarse or more irregular. Pfaff expertly combined these woven elements with other related forms and materials (aluminum ducts and glass, for example) to make dynamic yet deliberately composed constructions. There is an uneasy balance to these works as Pfaff plays with the relationship between volume and open space.
 
Also new for Pfaff with this project was the absence of color. The glossy or matte surfaces of the various metals play off one another, and in one piece, shiny copper adds contrast to the rust and silver of its woven counterparts. As curator and art critic Judith Stein wrote about this series, Pfaff “exploits the unadorned surfaces of glistening industrial ductwork, or the naturally variegated coloration of tin cans and containers” (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts exhibition brochure, Philadelphia, 1991).

Bio
American, born 1946, lives in Kingston, New York
Judy Pfaff was born in London, England, and moved to the United States when she was thirteen. She went on to art school, earning her BFA from Washington University in Saint Louis (1971) and her MFA from Yale University (1973). Pfaff is known for her sculpture, drawing, and printmaking, and in 1983 she was awarded a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship. Her solo exhibitions include the Bienal São Paulo (1998), where she was the United States representative, and major shows at the Denver Art Museum (1994) and the National Museum of Women in the Arts (1988). Pfaff’s 1991 exhibition at the FW+M was presented collaboratively with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Among her significant public art projects is Cirque (1994), a permanent installation said to be the largest suspended sculpture in the world, commissioned by the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.