Fall 2015 Artist in Residence
Stephen was an Artist in Residence in 2015, through a partnership with the Museum of Art, Design, and Architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Stephen Westfall, who attended UCSB as both an undergrad and grad (BA 1975, MFA 1978) has been commissioned to execute a massive painting covering all four walls of Nachman Gallery. Westfall's signature hardedge, geometric brand of abstraction will transform the gallery surfaces into a series of multicolored diamonds, clustered together and floating individually according to an underlying pattern of arrangement. Westfall's design is based on his longstanding investigation of grids, color arrangements, signs and painterly influences that include Picasso's harlequins, Matisse's dancers and Renaissance figures.
"I think a lot about the relationship between painting and architecture. I would like my paintings to be regarded as expressions of energy and place.
When I was an adolescent, I was fascinated by the social spaces adjudicated by architecture. At the age of twelve I was bringing home books about Louis Kahn, Corbusier and Luis Barragan, architects who carved up space with colored walls. Barragan was more polychromatic, but even white was a color for Corbusier, who also added color to his interior walls in his chapel masterpiece, Notre Dame de Haut.
As a student, I loved 60s American abstract painting because it seemed to address interior space with the same forthrightness that the architects I admired addressed exterior space. In my work, color as area became something to pay close attention to.
To deal with the structuring role of color, I studied Matisse, Mondrian, and Albers. Matisse was perhaps the most absorbing, which is why I don’t paint like him. But he is somebody I think about a lot, in the way that I guess Ellsworth Kelly thinks about Matisse and doesn’t paint like him, either. It’s there in the work if you can imagine Matisse doing hard edge painting - something that he wouldn’t have done - but the thing about historical distance is that you can do a mash-up like that.
Over the course of the last decade, I wanted my work to address architecture more directly and wall paintings seemed a way to fuse paintings to architectural scale. I regard the wall paintings now as being as essential to my artistic practice as my paintings on canvas and paper, which are bound by more conventional notions of portability and transferability."
Stephen Westfall (b. 1953) received his MFA in 1978 from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His first solo exhibition in 1984 at Tracey Garet in New York’s East Village earned reviews in Art in America and Artnews that took note of his particular brand of geometric abstraction. Exhibitions followed during the 1980s and into the 1990s at Daniel Newburg Gallery in New York, Galerie Paal in Munich, Germany and Galerie Wilma Lock in St. Gallen, Switzerland. An exhibition of paintings took place at Andre Emmerich Gallery in New York in 1995, followed by several exhibitions at Galerie Zurcher in Paris. Westfall has been represented in New York by Lennon, Weinberg since 1997. Recent work has been exhibited at kunstgaleriebonn in Germany and David Richard Gallery in Santa Fe.
Westfall has been included in several important survey exhibitions of abstract painting including Abstraction/abstractions, geometries provisoires at the Musée d’art moderne in Saint-Etienne, France in 1997 and in both exhibitions titled Conceptual Abstraction, first at Sidney Janis Gallery in 1991 and in the exhibition that revisited that show which took place at the Hunter College Art Gallery in 2012.
Works by the artist are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Kemper Museum in Kansas City, the Louisiana Museum in Humlebaek, Denmark, the Munson Williams Proctor Museum in Utica, New York, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Westfall has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Nancy Graves Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He received a Rome Prize Fellowship and spent a year at the American Academy in Rome during 2009 and 2010. He is a professor at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University and in the graduate program at Bard University. He is a Contributing Editor at Art in America.