Barbara T. Smith, Kiss a Spot Forbidden, 1975, performance documentation.
Barbara T. Smith, Kiss a Spot Forbidden, 1975, performance documentation.

Armory Center for the Arts presents, how we are in time and space: Nancy Buchanan, Marcia Hafif, Barbara T. Smith

Pasadena, CA—Armory Center for the Arts is pleased to present how we are in time and space: Nancy Buchanan, Marcia Hafif, and Barbara T. Smith, a major group exhibition of work by Nancy Buchanan, Marcia Hafif, and Barbara T. Smith opening Friday, January 28 through Sunday, June 12, 2022. This long-awaited historical survey, presented in the Armory’s expansive Caldwell Gallery, is the first to focus on the collaborations and empathic intersections between three remarkable artists in the form of drawing, photography, collage, video, performance documentation, and architectural proposals comprising over 50 years of art making. An appointment is required to view the exhibition. Admission is free.

About the Exhibition

Organized by guest curator Michael Ned Holte, the title of the exhibition—how we are in time and space: Nancy Buchanan, Marcia Hafif, and Barbara T. Smith—is taken from a phrase by Barbara T. Smith, positioning art as an inquiry into the nature of being. Embracing the differences between these artists as well as their points of convergence, the exhibition will probe various notions of being, including the political, scientific, and spiritual. how we are in time and space will span 3,000 square feet, comprise over 50 works and significantly elevate dialogue around these groundbreaking artists in tandem with the Armory’s robust education and community outreach programs.

All three artists have deep connections to Southern California, intersecting in the inaugural MFA program at UC-Irvine from 1969 to 1971. Buchanan, Hafif, and Smith all entered graduate school as mothers and were emphatically aware of the gendered expectations and hostilities toward women choosing art making as their primary pursuit, though each presented a unique version of the struggle for liberation from the orthodoxies of gender and sexuality. The exhibition will be anchored by three time-based works demonstrating the overlaps between each artist’s practice and revealing the primary subjects of the exhibition—bodies, communication, and dwelling. From 1970-77, Marcia Hafif made a Super-8 film with Nancy Buchanan, called Notes on Bob and Nancy. The artist’s analytical narration, which also takes the form of a printed script, is a meditation on relationships, both real and performed. In Buchanan’s Please Sing Along, 1974, performed at the Woman’s Building (and included in the exhibition as a video along with other documentation), two “beautiful” nude men perform a dance to music, before Buchanan and Barbara T. Smith, dressed in karate garments, fight to exhaustion, ending with a kiss. Three years later, Smith and Buchanan made a video together, a melodrama for their hands titled With Love from A to B, set in a dollhouse-like living room, that reveals notions of dwelling through non-verbal communication.

A significant number of works in the exhibition likewise implicate the body, often explicitly. Buchanan’s ongoing interest in hair will be represented by several works including WOLFWOMAN (1977), a hilarious account of bodily transformation and accompanying patriarchal alarm when the artist has her period. (This was included in the newsprint publication Criss Cross Double Cross, edited by Paul McCarthy, to which Smith also contributed.) One of Buchanan’s highly ornate hair drawings, an ongoing series, will also appear. Hafif’s interest in the body will be demonstrated in a series of drawings from 1977-78. In Arm Drawing and Foot Drawing, Hafif makes an awkward indexical record of her body that is both representation and abstraction. In Smith’s performance, A Week in the Life of… (1975), initiated by a formal auction event in Pasadena, the artist auctioned off 36 units of her time, comprising various activities from nourishment (recalling the artist’s breakthrough performance Feed Me in 1973) and correspondence, the latter with and purchased by the artist Rachel Rosenthal.

Communication (and inevitably miscommunication) is an ongoing area of interest for all three artists which will be explored in the exhibition—as a way of understanding “how we are in space and time” through engagement with other bodies and other subjectivities. Hafif formalized this inquiry with her performance work Language Exchange, Construction in Process (1990), in which she attempted to communicate outside of language with another artist in Lødz, Poland. Smith has investigated communication in various ways, including a series of wall-based works from the late 1980s and early 1990s in which found seashells are arranged on panels in ways that imply linguistic construction, though their meaning is ultimately rendered ambiguous. Buchanan’s Sympathetic Magic (1972) is a mail art piece in which participants chosen by the artist (including Hafif and Smith) could instruct Buchanan to send a personal item to someone she didn’t already know—options included a photo of her maternal grandmother, a poem, a letter from an old boyfriend.

Finally, dwelling is also a recurring interest for each artist which will be investigated in the exhibition, and is inevitably connected to themes of the body and communication. Buchanan has consistently returned to the domestic as a site of consideration and critique in pastel drawings, collages, and dollhouses. Ghost Quilt (2019-22), a new fabric work by Buchanan, incorporates and reiterates a family heirloom from the 19th century and will be exhibited here for the first time. Hafif and Smith have both made a number of works related to the ocean—a significant environmental consideration for artists living and working in Southern California—including Hafif’s Pacific Ocean series (circa 2000) of monochrome paintings and an excerpt from Smith’s photo series The Westside, A Blessed Time (2011-15), which the artist has described as revealing “not an attempt to communicate with others so much as to find a way to listen to myself, to plumb and record the emergent perceptions of my consciousness”. Hafif’s photographic documentation of The Mill House (1983), a domestic property without electricity or running water occupied by the artist, and her later sculptural model The Oval House (2002) both propose a radical break from sociality in favor of austere self-sufficiency and utter solitude in space and time. The exhibition will be accompanied by a brochure providing complementary historical and scholarly records of Buchanan, Hafif, and Smith’s work.

About the Artists

Nancy Buchanan (b. 1946, Boston) is an artist whose work has been shown in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, the Centre Pompidou, the Getty Research Institute, and was included in four of the Getty-sponsored Pacific Standard Time exhibitions. She was the subject of a solo screening of her videotapes at REDCAT in 2013, and her videos have been included in group exhibitions including Agitprop at the Brooklyn Museum; RE-ACTION, a traveling exhibition originating in Spain; and Jonny at Insitu, Berlin. Buchanan is the recipient of four National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist grants, a COLA grant, and a Rockefeller Fellowship in New Media. In 2016, she organized It’s Your Party, a durational performance at UC Irvine’s xMPL Theater as the second event in The Art of Performance. Beginning with her participation as a founding member of F Space Gallery in Costa Mesa, Buchanan has been involved in numerous artists’ groups including The Los Angeles Woman’s Building and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE); she has also acted as curator for several exhibitions and projects. From 1988-2012, she taught in the Film/School at CalArts; she worked with community activist Michael Zinzun on his cable access show Message to the Grassroots for ten years and as a member of Zinzun’s LA 435 Committee; and she traveled to Namibia to produce a documentary about that country’s transition to independence from the Republic of South Africa. Buchanan lives and works in Los Angeles.

Marcia Hafif (1929-2018) was born in Pomona, California. After graduating from Pomona College in 1951, 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 has 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. Exhibiting with Sonnabend Gallery in Soho and Paris from 1974 to 1981, she developed numerous series of paintings that would become the basis of what came to be called The Inventory. Hafif’s work has been exhibited extensively in museums, notably at MoMA PS 1; Haus für Konstruktive und Konkrete Kunst, Zurich; FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon; and MAMCO, Geneva. Hafif was the subject of solo survey exhibitions at Laguna Art Museum, 2015; the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, 2017; Kunsthaus Baselland; 2017. For four decades Hafif divided her time between Laguna Beach and New York City. She died in 2018, a few months before the opening of the exhibition Marcia Hafif: A Place Apart at Pomona College Museum of Art.

Barbara T. Smith (b. 1931) has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area her whole life. She received a BA from Pomona College in 1953, and MFA in 1971 from University of California, Irvine where she was a founding member of F Space with Chris Burden and Nancy Buchanan. Smith has been represented in historic survey exhibitions including Whatever Happened to Sex in Scandinavia? at Office for Contemporary Art, Oslo, Norway (2009); WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (traveling exhibition 2008-09); Drawing in L.A.: The 1960s and 70s, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2016); and in several major exhibitions as part of Pacific Standard Time organized by the Getty (2011-12), including State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970, Orange County Museum of Art, CA and Bronx Museum, NY; and Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974 - 1981, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Recent notable exhibitions include The 21st Century Odyssey at The Box, Los Angeles; Outside Chance, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York; Artists and Their Books / Books and Their Artists, the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; Experiments in Electrostatics, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 56 Artillery Lane, Raven Row, London, UK; Still Life with Fish: Photography from the Collection, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and Mommy, Yale Union, Portland, OR. In 2005, Smith had a retrospective The 21st Century Odyssey Part II: The Performances of Barbara T. Smith at Pomona College Museum of Art, CA.

About the Curator

Michael Ned Holte is a writer, curator, and educator living in Los Angeles. His most recent exhibitions include solo presentations by artists Candice Lin and Aram Saroyan, as well as the group exhibition 50+50: A Creative Century from Chouinard to CalArts (organized with Carmen Amengual) at REDCAT, all in 2020. In 2016 he organized the exhibition Routine Pleasures at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House, Los Angeles, and edited a companion publication of the same title. With Connie Butler, he co-curated the 2014 edition of Made in L.A. at the Hammer Museum, which included new work by Marcia Hafif. Other exhibitions include TL;DR at Artspace in Auckland, New Zealand, 2014; Support Group at Cottage Home Los Angeles, 2010; and Celine and Julie Go Boating at Anna Helwing Los Angeles, 2005. His writing has appeared in print and online periodicals such as Afterall, Artforum, Art Journal, East of Borneo, and X-Tra, as well as numerous exhibition catalogues and publications. Holte is the recipient of a Creative Capital Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. Since 2009, he has been a member of the faculty in the Program in Art at CalArts.

Education and Public Programs

For three decades, the Armory has offered innovative approaches to presenting, creating, and teaching the visual arts. In addition to providing a showcase for contemporary art exhibitions and events, the Armory offers studio art classes and educational outreach programs to schools and the community that explore themes presented in the exhibitions. how we are in time and space will further the Armory’s commitment to scholarly and imaginative exhibitions and innovative outreach efforts by presenting materials in ways that enhance understanding and foster new visual and community connections. Over the course of the exhibition a number of artists and organizations will be invited to respond to or annotate one or more specific works, resulting in new art works, performances, talks, and workshops. The working list includes: Gabrielle Civil, Neha Choksi, Patricia Fernandez, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Kang Seung Lee, Babsi Loisch, Jennifer Moon, Matt Siegle, Tashi Wada, Jennifer West, and Feminist Center for Creative Work. Additionally, how we are in time and space will be accompanied by a conversation with Nancy Buchanan, Barbara T. Smith, and Michael Ned Holte, joined by several of the artists who have engaged with the legacy of the three artists in the exhibition. All exhibition programs are free.

Project Support

Major support for how we are in time and space and related public programs comes from the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts and the Pasadena Art Alliance, with generous support from the Michael Asher Foundation.

About the Armory

Armory Center for the Arts, in Pasadena, California, is one of the Los Angeles region’s leading independent institutions for contemporary art and community arts education. The Armory believes that an understanding and appreciation of the arts is essential for a well-rounded human experience and a healthy civic community. The organization’s board and staff are committed to holding deep conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion; and acknowledge that these efforts are ongoing, a process of growth, and require intense self-reflection and collective consideration. Under Covid-19, and in keeping with these institutional practices, the Armory has deepened and expanded its programmatic reach to include online exhibition programs and artmaking classes, along with hands-on art activities safely delivered in-person to those with limited digital access. For more information on the Armory Center for the Arts, visit