PAT STEIR | Untitled



Lévy Gorvy
Untitled, 2019
Oil on canvas
48 x 48 in. 121.9 x 121.9 cm. (Unframed)


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Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1938, Pat Steir studied art and philosophy at Boston University and received her BFA from the Pratt Institute in 1962. In 1963, she was invited to participate in her first group show at the High Museum in Atlanta. The next year, her work appeared in group shows at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, making her a key figure among the first wave of women artists to gain prominence in the New York art world.

In the mid-1960s, Steir worked as an art director at Harper & Row publishers in New York. In the early 1970s she taught art at Parsons School of Design, Princeton University, and later at the California Institute of the Arts where Ross Bleckner, David Salle, and Amy Sillman were among her students. She is a founding board member of Printed Matter, HERESIES: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics, and Semiotext(e)

Steir was lauded in the early 1970s for her canvases featuring various iconographic symbols—most prominently roses crossed out with ‘X’ figures, inspired by Shakespeare’s famous aphorism, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” and Gertrude Stein’s retort, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” Of this act of effacement, the artist explains, “I wanted to destroy images as symbols. To make the image a symbol for a symbol. I had to act it out―make the image and cross it out.” This series marks Steir’s engagement with questions of representation and semantic signification, issues she continues to explore. She was compelled to search for her own praxis that was both painterly and theoretical. The influence of Conceptual art, French philosophy, and East Asian art and thought moved her to begin creating room-size installations in the mid-1970s.

In the late 1970s, Steir traveled extensively in the United States and Europe, where numerous galleries regularly presented her work. By the late 1980s, back in New York, Steir began to experiment with pouring and flinging layers of thinned paint onto canvas, releasing herself from conscious consideration of imagery and composition and allowing the indexical trace of her process to become the image itself. While her pouring process invites comparisons to Jackson Pollock, rather than laying her canvases on the floor, Steir paints from a ladder and works directly on unstretched canvas tacked to the studio wall. Her painting methods incorporate delimited chance, with a studied and deliberate release of control developed through her study of Japanese and Chinese painting. Deeply inspired by Taoism and Buddhism, her works transcend the divide between figuration and abstraction. Intentionally deviating from the gestural flatness of the Abstract Expressionists, Steir instead explores a contemplative condition of unbound perception. In this way, she seeks to both portray and evoke a state of mind: rather than representing the sublimity of a waterfall or seascape, Steir’s paintings become charged spaces of transcendental content.

For five decades, Steir has exhibited widely in American and European museums. She has recently completed two major suites of monumental, rigorous Waterfall projects: Silent Secret Waterfalls for the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia (2019) and Color Wheel for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (2019–21). Lévy Gorvy has shown her paintings with solo exhibitions in London (2016) and New York (2017), and in 2019 hosted Visible Traces (Mountain Air Water), an exhibition curated by Steir. Her work is held in the permanent collections of major museums worldwide, including: Denver Art Museum; Fondation Cartier, Paris; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Louvre, Paris; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Tate, London; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among other institutions.

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