Pin It

On the Cover: Werner Pfeiffer 

click to enlarge "Abracadabra–return to title page," Werner Pfeiffer, artist’s book, 2007
  • "Abracadabra–return to title page," Werner Pfeiffer, artist’s book, 2007

Werner Pfeiffer cherishes books. He also hangs them, gags them, stabs them, and mutilates them. "I strip the books of their contents until all that is left is the carcass," the Red Hook-based artist explains. This might seem like a complicated relationship, and it is. Books have been an intimate part of Pfeiffer's life since he was a boy. Growing up in Germany during the 1930s, Pfeiffer witnessed books being burned, censored, and maimed. Paper was rarely available, if at all. Words were manipulated and erased—a literary crime that has influenced Pfeiffer's art profoundly.

Why commit strikingly similar measures in the name of art? To send a message, says Pfeiffer. "At times, one has to play devil's advocate to make a point. Books are one of mankind's most treasured icons and they are disappearing." In this digital age, Pfeiffer wonders, "Will books be different years from now? Will they be around at all?"

In the interest of preserving the book as an artifact and as a symbol, Pfeiffer works with the structure and design of books in order to comment upon their physical, political, and cultural significance. It might be unsurprising that paper, the essence of books, is his chosen medium. Born out of the circumstances of his youth, Pfeiffer developed a sincere love and appreciation for paper: "Paper was scarce; paper was burned. I didn't even know paper existed, so, later, it became beautiful to me," he explains. Pfeiffer has a unique perspective in this way; most of us regard paper as something mundane and utilitarian. It's seen as an ephemeral surface, easily discarded. This is not the case for Pfeiffer. "Looked at from a different angle," he says, "paper has a structural capacity; it has sound, it has depth. There are so many ways to view it."

Film by Stephen Blauweiss. Produced by ArtistFilmDocs.

Pfeiffer's work is steeped in Surrealism and Dadaism, his pieces often reflecting the blur between reality and the imagination. He likes his work to "play a coy game of hide-and-seek with illusion and reality." Pfeiffer also tries to connote the act of reading in a more dynamic way, producing what he calls Book-Objects. These pieces are hands-on and interactive, urging the viewer to get involved in deconstructing and reassembling them. "My work is part game, part readings, part artistic expression," he explains.

Most interestingly and poignantly, Pfeiffer's Book-Objects are pure white and devoid of written words. Essentially, this is intended to draw the viewer's attention to a world without words, much like the world of Pfeiffer's youth. It calls to mind the book as a symbol—what it is and what it could be. Words, as Pfeiffer explains, are immensely important. "Words are more powerful than bullets," he notes. "Words are, ultimately, what everyone is afraid of."

Nearly 200 one-of-a-kind and limited edition artist books, dimensional prints, collages, and experimental works on paper by Pfeiffer will be shown in the exhibit "Drawn, Cut, & Layered: The Art of Werner Pfeiffer," which opens on February 6 at the Toledo Museum of Art. Toledomuseum.org.

Speaking of...

  • ArtScene Web TV Episode 2: Construction Ahead
  • ArtScene Web TV Episode 2: Construction Ahead

    The second episode of Chronogram's web TV series, ArtScene, exploring the Hudson Valley's vibrant artistic community of artists, featuring multimedia artist Wayne Montecalvo, the Women's Studio Workshop, paper sculptor Werner Pfeiffer, and Wishbone Letterpress.
    • Feb 1, 2015
  • Video: Werner Pfeiffer, By the Book
  • Video: Werner Pfeiffer, By the Book

    Werner Pfeiffer's book art is steeped in Surrealism and Dadaism, his pieces often reflecting the blur between reality and the imagination.
    • Feb 1, 2015
  • Air Pirates Radio Looking for New Home
  • Air Pirates Radio Looking for New Home

    Air Pirates Radio, a local theater company run by Paul Ellis, leaves the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center after six years and is looking for a new home.
    • Jan 16, 2013
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

Hudson Valley Events

submit event
Hudson Valley Regional FIRST® Robotics Competition @ Rockland Community College

Hudson Valley Regional FIRST® Robotics Competition

Sat., March 25, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sun., March 26, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. — Five Hudson Valley High School Teams Prepare to Put STEM Skills to...

The Moonlights

Sun., March 26, 10 a.m.

View all of today's events

Latest in Visual Art

  • On The Cover: Gabriel Garcia Roman
  • On The Cover: Gabriel Garcia Roman

    "Visceral Notions" will feature work by Gabriel Garcia Roman through March 26 at the Center for Photography at Woodstock.
    • Mar 1, 2017
  • Andres Serrano Goes Back to School
  • Andres Serrano Goes Back to School

    The Andres Serrano retrospective at The School, the spectacular exhibition space established by Chelsea gallery owner Jack Shainman in Kinderhook, is a rare event.
    • Mar 1, 2017
  • Parting Shot: Matthew Pleva
  • Parting Shot: Matthew Pleva

    Kingston-based multimedia artist Matthew Pleva seeks inspiration from everything around him.
    • Mar 1, 2017
  • More »

Related to Visual Art

More by Bridget Corso

  • "The Arabian Nights": A Kaleidoscope of Stories

    "The Arabian Nights" is currently in HVSF summer repertory along with "A Winter's Tale," "An Iliad," "The Tempest," and "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
    • Aug 1, 2015
  • Woodstock Film Festival Turns 15

    The 15th annual Woodstock Film Festival runs from October 14 to October 19 at locations in Woodstock, Saugerties, Rhinebeck, Kingston, and Rosendale.
    • Oct 1, 2014
  • On The Cover: Hippolyte-Alexandre Michallon

    A show of paintings by Mark Beard, “Landscapes & Bodyscapes” will be exhibited at Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson in November.
    • Sep 1, 2014
  • More »

Hudson Valley Tweets