Manny Farber: About Face
September 23, 2004—January 9, 2005
P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents a major exhibition of works by Manny Farber (b. 1917, Arizona). Included are works from all periods of the artist's career, which began in the late 1950s.
The exhibition's title, Manny Farber: About Face, references Farber's unique approach to painting, which is equally restless, unpretentious, constantly evolving, and, most definitively, autobiographical. Comprised of approximately 70 works, the exhibition features examples of the artist's early shaped abstract works on paper, the American Candy American Stationery series, the Auteur series, and the tondo and horizontal paintings of the 1980s. The exhibition also includes vibrantly colored, intricate still lives dating from the mid-1980s to the present that are contextualized in his earlier body of work and thus allow a unique viewpoint into his artistic development.
Farber has contributed to American cultural discourse for more than 50 years, both as a film and art critic and as a painter. About Face demonstrates the intersection of these two aspects of his life, exploring how his distinctive writing style and film critique methods translate into composition, detail, and color in his painting.
Throughout his career, Farber has adamantly remained outside current trends in contemporary art, preferring to create work that is consistently about his own personal painting process. In the 1970s he radically shifted his work from abstraction to narrative painting, incorporating themes and materials reminiscent of his childhood experiences in movie theaters. In the 1980s, the landscape of his life became an increasingly definitive subject matter in his work as he painted objects directly from his everyday surroundings. Painting on a flat table surface, Farber also concentrated on a unique version of the still life perceived from a bird's-eye view. Similar to a film director, Farber orchestrates a complex choreography of objects, leading the viewer's eye across the picture plane. Most of Farber's works from the past 15 years contain his trademark written commentaries, often in the diaristic form of an inner critic exposed to the public.
Organized by MCASD Curator Stephanie Hanor and presented at P.S.1 by Alanna Heiss, this exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated 150-page catalogue, including new scholarship on Farber's work by Hanor, Dr. Robert Polito, insightful analysis by noted art historians Dr. Jonathan Crary and Dr. Sheldon Nodelman, and a contribution by Robert Walsh, editor of Farber's collection of criticism Negative Space. The publication documents the exhibition and also Farber's long career, exploring the connections between Farber's criticism and his painting.
Manny Farber: About Face is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and was presented at the Austin Museum of Art, and is now presented at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center. This exhibition is made possible by generous support from Colette Carson Royston and Dr. Ivor Royston, as well as the Lead Corporate Sponsor, Imperial Capital Bank. Additional funding comes from Barbara and Charles Arledge, Max Palevsky, Robert L. Shapiro, The Cowles Charitable Trust, New York, The James Irvine Foundation, and the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.