Pat Steir

Pat Steir

Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1940, 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 in The Museum of Modern Art’s Drawing exhibition, 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 was appointed an Art Director at Harper and Row Publishing Company 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 where among her students. She is a founding board member of Printed Matter Bookshop, HERESIES: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics, and Semiotext(e).

Steir was lauded in the early 1970s for her monochromatic canvases featuring various iconographic symbols—most prominently roses, 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”—crossed out with ‘X’ figures. 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 the artist’s first engagement with questions of representation and semantic signification. Steir continues to explore these issues, working to unfix the tradition of representation in landscape painting, instead evoking the meaning of landscape without imagery as such.

While she shared an affinity with Sol LeWitt and John Cage, Steir 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 philosophy moved her to begin creating room-size installations in the mid-1970s. Here, the artist formulated alternate worlds and new visions of reality. In these “second realities,” the viewer is entirely encompassed in a dimensional painted realm. These spaces, instead of functioning solely on a perceptual level, are meant to invoke various spatial configurations. Steir is interested in working with “space of any kind—interior space, heart space, movement in space, events in space, mind space, and imaginary space.”

In the late 1970s, Steir traveled extensively in the United States and eventually lived in Europe where numerous galleries regularly presented her work. By 1988, back in New York, Steir began to experiment with pouring and flinging thin layers of white 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. The delimited chance of this working method has since come to define Steir’s practice. However, rather than wholly abandoning the execution of her paintings to external elements and factors, Steir exercises rigorous control over her technique. This studied and deliberate release of control as an artistic method developed through her study of Japanese and Chinese painting. Steir is deeply inspired by Taoism and Buddhism, and her working methods transcend the divide between figuration and abstraction. Intentionally deviating from the gestural flatness in the work of Pollock and other 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 had an extensive solo exhibition history with American and European museums. Most recently, Drawing Out of Line traveled from the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, to Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York in 2010. In 200, Watershed traveled to the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio, and the Des Moines Art Center, among other venues. In 1998 Steir created site-specific installations Likity Split and Ghost Moon Mountain Water for The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, respectively. Other major exhibitions include: The Irish Museum of Modern Art (1996, 1994); Centre National d’art Contemporain de Grenoble (1992); and Musee d’art Contemporain, Lyon, France (1990), among others.

In 1988, Pat Steir Prints 1976-1988 opened at the Cabinet des Estampes, Musee d’art et histoire, Geneva, and traveled to The Tate Gallery, London. The prior year, the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam presented Paintings 1981-1984; The Baltimore Museum of Art hosted Drawing Now: Pat Steir; and Kunstmuseum Bern opened Paintings and Drawings. In 1984, the Brooklyn Museum organized Pat Steir: The Brueghel Series (A Vanitas of Style), an exhibition that traveled to ten museums including the Dallas Museum of Art; Centre d’art Contemporain, Palais Wilson, Geneva; Los Angeles County Museum (LACMA); Des Moines Art Center; and the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague, The Netherlands, among other venues. Form Illusion Myth: The Prints and Drawings of Pat Steir opened at the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence, in 1983 and traveled to the California State University, Long Beach; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; The Wellesley College Museum; and the Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, Memphis.

Steir’s work has been included in hundreds of group shows and is held in the permanent collections of major museums worldwide including: Denver Art Museum; Fondation Cartier, Paris; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Louvre, Paris; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Tate Gallery, London, among other institutions.

Along with lecturing at museums and universities, Steir is the recipient of several awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1982), as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (1976, 1973).

In 1991, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Art from the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, and, in 2001, received the Boston University School for the Arts Distinguished Alumni Award.

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Selected Works

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  • Dragon Tooth Waterfall
    1990
    Oil on canvas
    92 x 132-1/2" (233.7 x 336.6 cm)

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  • Elephant Waterfall
    1990
    Oil on canvas
    144 x 122" (365.8 x 309.9 cm)

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  • Vibrating Blue and Red Waterfall
    1993
    Oil on canvas
    48 x 48 inches (121.9 x 121.9 cm)
    © Pat Steir 2016

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  • Wind and Water
    1995
    Oil on canvas
    108 x 108" (274.3 x 274.3 cm)

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Video

Pat Steir at Dominique Lévy London

March 22, 2017

Pat Steir at Dominique Lévy London
November 9, 2016 - January 28, 2017

Exhibitions

Selected Press

Art Market Monitor | Why Galleries Look to Rediscover Artists

April 10, 2017

There remain a number of young artists who attract a great deal of attention from institutions and …

The New York Times | ‘What Next?’ an Uncertain Art World Asks, Sticking to Proven Brands

April 7, 2017

The art market is almost as old as art itself. But it’s only in the last decade or so, with increased …

Vogue | Dealer's Choice

April 1, 2017

On a recent sun-drenched morning, Andrea Glimcher...

Vogue | It's Time To Talk About Gender Bias In The Art World

March 4, 2017

Next up: a talk this afternoon by painter and national treasure Pat Steir, Russian-born philanthropist …

Boston Globe | Anne Waldman and Meredith Monk’s intimate ritual at ICA

February 27, 2017

Accompanied by the music of her son Ambrose Bye, and illuminated by images of Pat Steir’s brightly …

New York Times | As Top-Tier Artists Age, the Art World Hopes to Cash In

January 30, 2017

Even Brett Gorvy, who just left Christie’s after 23 years to join forces with the dealer Dominique …

Creators | Streaming Oil Waterfall Paintings Question the Formal Line

January 14, 2017

London gallery Lévy Gory is exhibiting New York artist Pat Steir’s bold oil paintings through …

Artsy | New Fairs and Blue Chip Dealers Descend on San Francisco to End Debate Over City’s Art Market

January 10, 2017

Lévy says she was compelled to participate in the fair after “witnessing the energy and the support …

Harper's Bazaar | Creative Flow

December 1, 2016

It’s hard to fully comprehend the paintings of Pat Steir until you’ve stood in front of one.

Financial Times | Trickle-down effect: the method (or madness) of Pat Steir

November 4, 2016

In Pat Steir’s Manhattan kitchen there are drawings of dogs by her friends Wayne Thiebaud and Joan …

Interview | Artists at Work: Pat Steir

August 9, 2016

Pat Steir is a full-time painter, but in another life, she was likely an acclaimed poet.

Interior Russia | Pat Steir Gallery Dominique Lévy

May 18, 2016

Pat Steir - artist, who managed to marry Eastern philosophy, abstract expressionism and conceptual …

Dominique Levy | DOMINIQUE LÉVY ANNOUNCES REPRESENTATION OF PAT STEIR

May 12, 2016

Dominique Lévy is pleased to announce the gallery’s representation of artist Pat Steir, who first …

ArtNews | Dominique Lévy Adds Pat Steir to Its Roster, Plans September Show in London

May 12, 2016

In the midst of an auction week marked by huge sales for work by Cy Twombly and Agnes Martin in New …

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