Marcia Hafif

Marcia Hafif is one of a group of American artists who pursued a new form of painting in the United States and Europe in the 1970s. This new direction was also bolstered at the level of theory by practitioners and theorists of art. The emergence of  Fundamental Painting, Analytical Painting and ultimately untitled painting make it clear that this movement was concerned with self-referential painting, which breathed life into a seemingly exhausted medium. The exhibition Radical Painting, for example, put on in 1984 at the Williams College Museum of Art, featured eleven American and European artists who were part of this movement, including Raimund Girke, Joseph Marioni, , Günter Umberg and Hafif. They were interested in the possibility, within monochrome painting, of exploring the limits of their position, namely a radical renunciation of any message or interpretation in favour of an investigation of colour painting from within itself. This is accompanied by fundamental reflections on the meaning of painting as well as a general questioning of art and their position in art-theoretical and philosophical contexts. After a long period in Europe during the 1950s and 1960s and experiments with film, photo, video and sound, Hafif moved to New York and developed her new monochrome painting standpoint during the 1970s. She began her studies and the rediscovery of painting starting in 1972 with an inventory in which various fields of investigation were recorded. In 1978 she published her programmatic essay “Beginning Again”, in which she deconstructed and dissected the medium of painting. Using this form of analysis, the artist began examining the specific conditions at the core of painting, looked at in terms of its individual components: the process of painting, material/colour, format, size, tool and structure.

Marcia Hafif: “Decisions are made with reason and logic in order to bring about a situation into which the unintentional can enter. Rationally selected signs from a framework of meaning from which the painter works towards the unknown. Factors are set up, reasons for being, internal rules which are not imposed from the outside, but which function within a network of terms evolving from the work. Rules come into being through the process of thought and through the process of work, rules which are coherent within the terms of painting. Even so, all decisions are arbitrary to a degree; there is nothing about the painting which must be the way it is (other than enough of the basic elements so that we can call it a painting). And yet when certain decisions are made, others follow from them until finally every decision is a part of the whole.”1


1 Marcia Hafif, “Getting on with Painting”, Art in America (April 1981), n.p.


In the exhibition:

Marcia Hafif
Transparent Painting: Lamp Black, 1984
Oil on canvas
152,4 × 152,4 cm
Courtesy of Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna


Additional information about the artist