For five decades, Pat Steir has expanded the possibilities of painting as a conceptual medium. Since 1989, she has created the works that comprise her iconic Waterfall series, pouring and splashing thinned oil paints onto upright canvases so that they cascade down the surface. She has described this process as a collaboration with gravity and chance, in which she uses “nature to paint a picture of itself.” Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1938, Steir studied art and philosophy at Boston University and received her BFA from Pratt Institute in 1962. Among the first wave of women artists to gain prominence in New York and a vital figure of the avant-garde, Steir was a founding board member of the New York bookseller Printed Matter, a member of the Heresies Collective, which produced HERESIES: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics, and an editorial board member of the journal Semiotext(e).
Steir has presented her work in prestigious museums worldwide since 1963. Her traveling exhibitions include Pat Steir: The Brueghel Series (A Vanitas of Style) (1984), organized by the Brooklyn Museum and mounted at the Dallas Museum of Art, and the 2010 retrospective Drawing Out of Line, which traveled from the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, to the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, New York. In 2019, she unveiled the commissions Pat Steir: Silent Secret Waterfalls at the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, and Pat Steir: Color Wheel, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC. In 2021, the Long Museum, Shanghai, presented the first survey of the artist’s work in China. Steir’s work resides in such permanent collections as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; Louvre, Paris; and Tate, London. She has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1982). In 2020, she was the subject of a documentary by Veronica Gonzalez Peña.