Marcia Woods was born in 1929 in Pomona, California. After graduating from Pomona College in 1951 and marrying Herbert Hafif, she planned a year-long trip to Florence in 1961. Hafif settled, however, in Rome, where she remained for almost eight years, painting and exhibiting work she called “Pop-Minimal.” These works were shown for the first time in the United States in, Marcia Hafif: The Italian Paintings 1961–1969 at Fergus McCaffrey, New York, 2016. Returning to California in 1969, and leaving painting for a time to experiment with film, photography and sound installation, she completed an MFA degree at the University of California at Irvine.
In 1971, Hafif moved to New York City to search out a return to painting at a time when the validity of painting was in doubt and 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, exhibited at Art Basel Unlimited in 2015.
Exhibiting for more than eight years with Sonnabend Gallery in Soho and Paris from 1974 to 1981, she developed series of paintings that would become the basis of what came to be called The Inventory: 1974, Mass Tone Paintings; 1975, Wall Paintings; 1976, Pencil Drawings; 1978, Neutral Mix Paintings; 1979, Broken Color Paintings presented at The Clocktower with Alanna Heiss; and 1981, Black Paintings.
In the 1980s and 1990s she developed new series, along with relationships with galleries in Europe, first in Munich, then Dusseldorf, and eventually Vienna, London, Paris, and elsewhere. Hafif’s work has been exhibited extensively in museums worldwide including MoMA PS 1, 1990; Haus für Konstruktive und Konkrete Kunst, Zurich, 1995; FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon, 2000; MAMCO, Geneva, 2001; Laguna Art Museum, 2015; Kunsthaus Baselland, Switzerland, 2017; Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland, 2017; Lenbachhaus, Munich, 2018; Pomona College Museum, Claremont, California, USA, 2018; and MAMCO (Musée d’art modern et contemporain), Genève, 2019. Hafif passed away in Laguna Beach, California in 2018.
In March 2022, the gallery, in collaboration with Jarl Mohn, presented a site-specific installation of Hafif’s An Extended Gray Scale, at 5142 West Jefferson Blvd in Los Angeles. The three-person exhibition, how we are in time and space: Nancy Buchanan, Marcia Hafif, Barbara T. Smith, is currently on view at the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, through June 12, 2022.