Marcia Woods was born in 1929 in Pomona, California. She studied at Pomona College from 1947 to 1951, marrying Herbert Hafif. After interning at Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles in 1961, she set out on what was to be a year-long stay in Florence, Italy. However, upon encountering Rome, she settled and spent the next eight years there, making her first mature work. She exhibited her “Pop-Minimal” paintings at her first solo show at Galleria La Salita in 1964 and was criticized for the “American size” of her paintings and their “American cold squalor – similar to that provoked by traffic signs hung on the wall of a driving school.”
Returning to California in 1969 and leaving painting for a time to experiment with film, photography and sound installation, Hafif completed a MFA degree at the University of California at Irvine. In 1971, she moved to New York City to search out a return to painting at a time when the validity of painting was in doubt. Not finding a satisfactory path, she woke on the morning of January 1, 1972, to make her first Pencil on Paper drawing. Using short vertical marks, Hafif covered from top to bottom a 24 x 18 inch sheet of drawing paper. This method was later used in the development of her “color study” paintings. In An Extended Gray Scale, 1972–73, a work that occupied her for nearly a year, she painted gradations from black to white. Painting as many gradations she could distinguish, she completed a total of one hundred and six 22 x 22 inch oil paintings on standard cotton canvases.
In her influential Artforum essay “Beginning Again” from 1978, Hafif outlined what would become the operational basis of her career over the next four decades where she “examined the pigments used in making paintings in order to make visible the qualities and attributes of a specific pigment color in a specific medium and format.” Exhibiting for more than eight years with Sonnabend Gallery in New York and Paris from 1974 to 1981, Hafif developed series of paintings that would become the basis of what came to be called The Inventory (Mass Tone Paintings, 1973; Wall Paintings, 1975; Neutral Mix Paintings, 1976; Broken Color Paintings, 1978; Black Paintings, 1979). Hafif continued to add to The Inventory, growing into twenty-six different series of works including the Splash Paintings, 2009–10, and the Shade Paintings, 2013–18.
Hafif’s work has been exhibited widely in Europe and the United States. Recent major exhibitions include Marcia Hafif, The Inventory: Painting at Laguna Art Museum, 2015; Marcia Hafif: The Italian Paintings 1961–69 at Fergus McCaffrey, New York, 2016; and Marcia Hafif, The Inventory: Paintings at Kunstmuseum St. Gallen and Kunsthaus Baselland, Switzerland, 2017. A solo exhibition of Hafif’s work is on view until April 25th at Galerie Rupert Walser, Munich; and forthcoming exhibitions include: Marcia Hafif: Films (1977–99), Lenbachhaus Munich, July to September, 2018; and Marcia Hafif: A Place Apart, Pomona College Museum of Art, September to December, 2018.
For the last three decades Hafif divided her time between Laguna Beach, California, and New York City. She died on April 17, 2018.