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Pat Steir

Painter, printmaker Pat Steir is a painter and draftsman of words, letters, signs and symbolic marks, drips and spills applied to paper and canvas.

Steir, who now lives in New York City and Amsterdam, was born Iris Patricia Sukoneck in 1940 in Newark, New Jersey, growing up in a Jersey suburb of Philadelphia. Immersed in a study of the arts and philosophy as a girl, Steir continued her interests at Boston University and Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, studying lithography and etching from 1956 to 1962. She received her B.F.A. degree from Pratt in 1961.

After completion of her studies, during which she had worked with artists Richard Lindner and Philip Guston, Steir was employed by Harper and Row Publishers in New York City as an art director and book designer from 1966 to 1970. While she continued to paint, it would seem that her attraction to words was a reflection of inborn thinking that directed her into the world of books, and by being in that world, reinforced what she would do with words in her art. Supporting this idea, Steir, during the period form 1975 to 1978, was a member of the editorial board of Semiotext, and a founding board member of Printed Matter Bookshop in New York City.

From 1970 to 1975, she placed words and images on blank, unpainted canvases, crossing out with an X, rather than repainting, anything she did not want left on the canvas. It was a deliberate isolation of image from the ground, word from background, and lack of painterly integration of figure and ground.

Steir first produced color lithographs for Landfall Press in Chicago in 1973, subsequently working with Crown Point Press in Oakland, California. In 1985, the Museum of Modern Art exhibited etchings and monotypes from her “After Turner I” and “After Turner II” series.

The artist has also worked with a form of automatism in painting involving a kind of Zen oneness within herself, where, when she senses the arrival of the right moment of inner creative thrust and balance, will sweep a single, elongated paint stroke or two the length of a wall in the execution of over-sized art works.

Steir taught at Parsons School of Design, Princeton University, and Hunter College from 1970 to 1973, and California Institute of the Arts 1973 to 1975. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1982, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1973 and 1976. In 1991, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Art from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York, and, in 2001, the Boston University School for the Arts Distinguished Alumni Award.

Pat Steir has exhibited widely around the world.

Biography from the Archives of AskART.