Explore the Hudson Valley

Experience The Hudson Valley

The intriguing book-objects and artist books of Werner Pfeiffer to be exhibited by the Vassar Libraries and the college’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

  |   September 4, 2012  |  Comment

Vassar College will mark the 75th birthday year of Red Hook, NY resident and multi-media artist Werner Pfeiffer with the exhibition “Reexamining Books: Book Objects and Artist’s Books by Werner Pfeiffer,” which will appear across campus in three locations — Thompson Memorial Library, Art Library in Taylor Hall, and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center — from Thursday, September 6, through Saturday, December 15. The exhibits will be on view at all locations from 10am to 5pm Tuesdays through Saturdays, and a reception in honor of Pfeiffer, free and open to the public, will be held at 5:00pm on Thursday, September 6, in the Art Library.

Pfeiffer has worked for half a century in a variety of media, including books, collages, drawings, prints, paintings, and sculptures.  He has become known especially as a creator of artist books and book-objects. Pfeiffer’s “book-objects” are books that take on new forms and meanings as sculpture. In the exhibition catalogue he writes, “They are not casts, nor are they sculpted imitations. Each piece has at its core bound, printed pages. Glued together and painstakingly covered with gesso, a plaster-like coating, they are silenced and sealed for good. I practice this destruction, this obvious censorship simply as metaphor. It is to visualize, to demonstrate, to provoke.”

On the other hand the “artist books” to be exhibited are new, hand-crafted works that utilize traditional book-making techniques such as letterpress printing, handset type, wood cuts, linoleum blocks, etchings, and archival papers. Of these Pfeiffer writes, “Most of them have an experimental aspect as part of their structure. I invite the viewer to participate and share the creative dimension of a piece….Touching, folding, and manipulating components are an integral part of ‘reading’ the story.”

Exhibit curator Ron Patkus, Head of Special Collections at the Vassar College Libraries, says of the exhibition, “These works by their very nature push us to reconsider basic questions about the place of books and reading in contemporary society. Though one would expect the library to feature books, and the art center book objects, instead the opposite is taking place (objects in the library, books in the art center), while the Art Library, physically located between these two places, will show examples of both.  We hope this unexpected arrangement will contribute toward a reexamination of books as much as the individual works of art themselves.”

About the Artist

A resident of Red Hook in New York’s Hudson Valley, Werner Pfeiffer was born in 1937 in Stuttgart in the southwestern part of Germany. He emigrated to the United States in 1961 and was initially active as a designer and art director. He received many design awards from such groups as the New York Art Directors Club, the New York Type Directors Club, the New York Society of Illustrators, and the American Institute of Graphic Arts. His design work has been widely published in such magazines as Graphis, Gebrauchsgrafik, Print, Modern Publicity, and Art Direction.

In 1969 Pfeiffer was appointed Professor of Art at Pratt Institute in New York and became director of the Pratt Adlib Press. At this time he began to concentrate increasingly on his own work as sculptor, printmaker, and painter. To date, his books, collages, drawings, prints, paintings, and sculptures have been shown internationally in more than 100 group exhibitions and in over 70 solo shows. His works are in the permanent collections of the Art Institute in Chicago, Badische Landesbibliothek, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Library of Congress, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the National Museum in Stockholm, and the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

Pfeiffer has received public sculpture commissions from the State of Connecticut, the Federal Government of Germany, the State of Niedersachsen in Germany, and the State of Massachusetts, as well as commissions for projects for corporations such as Baxter International, The Hartford Insurance Group, and Daimler-Benz Credit Corp./USA.

Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space/and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, search for “campus accessibility information” on the Vassar homepage (http://www.vassar.edu).

Vassar College is located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, and directions to the campus can be found at http://www.vassar.edu/directions.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.

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