John Pfahl (1939-2020), Vaporous Sunrise, 2007; Digital Print mounted on Plexiglas with polycarbonate laminate, 84 x 21 inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Collectors Club Fund, 2007
Brief thoughts about John Pfahl
Friday, April 17, 2020
John Pfahl (February 17, 1939-April 15, 2020) was a world-renowned artist who addressed critical subjects in series of photographs that reflected his intellectual mind with sophisticated aesthetics, photographic historicity, wry humor, and utter seriousness. Although John and his equally creative artist wife, Bonnie Gordon, had made Buffalo home, he traveled the world for his photography. So dedicated to his art, he even created images when he was recovering from a bone marrow transplant decades ago—in a private series few people know. John Pfahl was an extraordinary humanist, especially concerned about our environment and the dangers of industrial pollution and nuclear proliferation. But he also pointed out human follies with a punning sense of humor. He paid homage to transcendentalists, and admired the art of Charles Burchfield, coming to all our exhibitions. Admiring the paintings, prints, and literature of artists who reflected the sublime and the picturesque, he sought those qualities in our contemporary landscapes; often illustrating how much had changed, and sometimes finding surviving scenes that provide hope. John was never static; always exploring new strategies and techniques. His creative genius will be missed, but we will savor all the art he created to make our lives more meaningful.
—Nancy Weekly, Burchfield Scholar, Head of Collections & Charles Cary Rumsey Curator