Joe Fyfe

Joe Fyfe

Fellow: Awarded 2008
Field of Study: Fine Arts

Competition: US & Canada

Joe Fyfe was born in 1952 in New York City, where he currently resides. He attended the University of Arts in Philadelphia (B.F.A., 1976). He has had recent (2007) solo shows of his paintings at JG Contemporary and of his drawings at Cynthia Broan in New York City, at Galerie Pitch in Paris, and in Ho Chi Minh City and in Hanoi, Vietnam. He has been in recent group exhibitions at Tracy Williams Ltd. and Cheim and Read in New York City. He has taught at Parsons, Virginia Commonwealth University, Tyler School of Art, and at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and currently teaches at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. He has received a Bessie Award for stage design (1986) and grants the Pollock-Krasner and Gottlieb Foundations (2:2003, 2008) and recently spent six months as a Fulbright research fellow in Vietnam and Cambodia (2006-07) and the summer (2007) as artist in residence at Sitterwerk Zentrum für Kunst und Kulturwirtschaf in St. Gallen, Switzerland. He writes about art for Art in America and Artnet. He is also a contributing editor at & Bomb magazine. He has also curated six exhibitions at venues including Apex art and Dorsky projects.

Joe Fyfe has provided the following excerpt from his artist’s statement for James Graham and Sons Gallery, where his work is currently exhibited. Some of the images from that exhibition are included in the slideshow above.

In the present exhibition an untitled series in the front room (subject of the catalog) comprises an assortment of models, concerns, and homages. The idea of a series is motivated by the examples of Barnett Newman’s series of magna on raw canvas paintings Stations of the Cross and the German painter Blinky Palermo’s two series of acrylic on aluminum paintings, Times of Day

and To the People of New York City. (Palermo, incidentally, also made paintings with commercial dyed cloth.) In the case of both artists, I responded to their work as being "devotional" but with only the most general religious overtones. The use of muslin is a variation on raw canvas and the oxblood colored cloth was found in a market in Cambodia and reminded me of the color of cloth worn by both Vietnamese Buddhist monks and Christian monks, such as the Franciscans. This also informs a desire to reconcile aspects of Buddhism and Catholicism. The somber or sober color of the cloth also is a homage to the "sober" lineage of French painting that I admire: from the brothers Le Nain to Chardin, Corot, Cezanne, Rouault, Braque through to Fautrier. The series is also a homage to a line of French modernists who were also indebted in some way to ideas found in the 20th-century French Catholic revival: Rouault again, the composer Messiaen, the film theorist Andre Bazin and the director Robert Bresson. In some ways I see the series as an abstract equivalent of the montage of Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest.

All of the work in the exhibition is based on the idea of the painting as informed by models in an expanded field, i.e., outside of painting culture per se. For example the photographs document alternative painting situations that might be seen as abstractions of the colored support and wooden stretcher. For example, in the photograph entitled “Anuradhapura” a string of Buddhist pennants, pieces of colored cloth are strung through the limbs of a Boddhi tree, the tree under which the Buddha was said to have attained enlightenment (colored pennants=support & paint, tree= wooden stretcher). Though the devotional aspect is a strong element in much of the work, the painting as window (stained glass on wooden block, colored cloth as panes of glass) is another interpretation–the secular is also represented as in one untitled work which was prompted by a polka-dot sheet and pillowcase set seen in a store window in a city in Switzerland.

Traveling to other countries expands one’s color repertoire; other countries have different "palettes" and use color differently. I access that palette by shopping in a given country’s fabric market and making my work with that colored material.

Overall is the idea of the painting as a physical object that addresses the body as intently as it does the eye through an emphasis on its physicality. What better way than to utilize the material that covers the body?


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