Work of the Week – Dragon Arum by Judy Pfaff

Monday, April 18, 2016

by Parker Louise BobbittJudy-Pfaff_DragonArum-lt-696x1024 (1)

This week’s Work of the Week is Dragon Arum by Judy Pfaff.

Throughout history, the works of art created have been innumerable and have presented seemingly endless ideas before the world. While some may be tempted to believe that all that remains is repetition, artists continue to innovate, expressing new ideas in new ways.

The mixed media work Dragon Arum is a sculptural collage by artist Judy Pfaff. Here, her exploration of material alone is a powerful statement.

Sculpting with nontraditional media such as plastics, papers, wire, fluorescent lights and Chinese lanterns, Pfaff ascertains her works’ potency and its distinction from the past. Through Dragon Arum, Pfaff demonstrates intricate planning and spontaneity. Space is transformed with the interaction of fluorescent lights on the wall and as it implies a constant state of movement. While a photograph does not do this sculpture justice, it can be viewed in the next few weeks until renovations in the Museum’s North Wing require it to be moved.

Judy Pfaff was born in post-war London, England and remembers playing in bombed-out buildings where she would collect materials for games and crafts as she grew up. Her father was a Royal Air Force Pilot who wasn’t involved in Pfaff’s life. When her parents separated, Pfaff moved to Detroit with her mother. She earned her BFA at Washington State University in 1971 and later, her MFA at Yale.

Judy Pfaff has worked in sculpture, printmaking, painting and installations, finding innovative ways to express her thoughts and feelings in various media. Having begun her work with a predominant focus on space color, Pfaff has increasingly shifted her focus to effective communication of innermost thoughts as seen in Dragon Arum. While this work echoes the abstract expressionistic paintings of decades past, Pfaff’s ingenuity is seen in her choice of a three-dimensional interpretation. It is the new use of media that allows her to convey unique concepts effectively and it is arguable that this could not have been achieved in a traditional medium and two-dimensional format. Benjamin Genocchio with the New York Times wrote, “Although these works look random, when you begin to get into them it is remarkable how all the elements seem to hang together and develop on one another. She seems somehow to get order and disorder working for her at the same time. It is a very contemporary quality, given our lives today.” New modes of creating are necessary in the effective expression of the ideas currently challenging accepted systems and leading us towards the future.

Artwork above: Judy Pfaff, Dragon Arum, 2011, Steel wires, various plastics & papers, shellacked Chinese paper and fluorescent light, 70 x 49 x 21 inches. Museum purchase by Collectors Circle with additional funds provided by Vito Lenoci, Ray Griffin and Thom Robinson. Permanent Collection. 2012.40.38.