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Yardstick

Oil and enamel on canvas
33 x 42 7/8 inches
1948
As published in: Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933-1957
Work on loan: Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia

As exhibited in:
Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 19331957, 2015–2017, Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Massachusetts, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio

Pat Passlof: Selections 19482011, 2012, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina

Our Own Work, Our Own Way: Ascendant Women in the Johnson Collection, Columbia Museum of Art, 2023, Columbia, South Carolina

After seeing Willem de Kooning’s first New York art exhibition, Pat Passlof longed to study with the pioneering Abstract Expressionist. As serendipity would have it, de Kooning was a last-minute faculty replacement at Black Mountain College’s 1948 summer session, where the young Georgia-born artist was enrolled. The Dutch modernist’s influence on Passlof is evident in Yardstick, where strong, sinewy black lines cutting through patches of muted color echo de Kooning’s own pieces. In order to create the canvas’s roughly textured surface, Passlof used brushes and palette knives to laboriously add and remove layers of paint. Unwilling to reduce the size of her composition to accommodate BMC’s small studios, Passlof opted to work in a campus horse stall. At summer’s end, Passlof moved to New York to begin private studies with de Kooning, later becoming his studio assistant.