"I was interested in painting from the time I was three years old. I didn’t suddenly decide to be an artist. I remember drawing on my crib wall with my sister, and spilling blue ink on a silk-covered chair in our house. My mother, after she discovered it, had to paint the whole chair the color of the ink."

In his oft-cited Artforum article, Rene Ricard (1946 – 2014) wrote on the importance of becoming one’s name, on being original, innovative, and by personifying the artist-as-icon role in the public realm. For the last fifty years, Judy Rifka has continued to personify that statement by existing both within the zeitgeist and on the periphery of it—even, at times, falling out of favor from it (it happens when you live a long and fruitful life)—all the while ceaselessly challenging her own modus operandi, her art and art forms that include painting, sculpture, video, performance, and more recently, Facebook and Instagram, those vast new canvases of social media Rifka embraces fully to dialogue with thousands of her adoring fans worldwide. Ricard wrote: 

 

One is at the mercy of the recognition factor and one’s public appearance is absolute....If Andy Warhol can’t be used as an object lesson in how to become iconic then his life has been a waste. We become our name.”

 

And in this very public arena, Rifka, the quintessential archetype of a generation of art giants—many lost to drugs and AIDS—that emerged on New York’s downtown scene in the 1970’s, becomes Rifka the modern-day social media artist who shares, posts and ‘LIKE’s via daily ritualistic performances– and they are performances, executed as if on Ricard’s cue–to boost recognition’.

A restless spirit with a Postmodernist, punk-like soul, Rifka set forth as artist during the heyday of the Age of Aquarius, the hippie generation in the midst of political chaos, Vietnam, and excitement at every turn. Her pro-action mindset in such an environment allowed Rifka to explore love and art simultaneously, easily, and with Abstract-Expressionism as guide and Flower Power as bar, boundaries in paint and life were pushed to the limits. Exploration became de rigueur of the day and from the moment she first stepped on the New York art scene as full-fledged artist in the early 1970’s, Judy Rifka became her name and would, before long, become The Radiant Child:

 
“Rifka’s work at the debut of the ‘70s.... her single shapes on plywood are among the most important paintings of the decade. Every painter who saw them at the time recognized their influence.”
 
Judy Rifka at Artists Space
 
Rifka asserts she should have been an sculptor for she was “more interested in developing form than continually relating spatial arrangements to four edges of a canvas.” These early investigations with form and space would become her raison d’être: 
 
I immersed myself in finding out about space. That really captivated me, trying to understand space, how to see it and how to draw through the image... I traveled through the Southwest and lived on a Navajo reservation where I painted. Desert space became a big thing for me, because there I was, trying to understand space in this vast area. Later, I became involved in dance and mixed the idea of movement with space, considering a line as a trajectory of movement. So it became about understanding space on the two-dimensional plane.”
 
Rifka aims to capture line and forms positing in space as well its trajectory in space and its concomitant wake reverberating outward and within the four-walled holding cell —the 4'x4’ plywood panel used most often for these single shape paintings. These simple yet majestic forms are allowed to ‘dance’, she says, on the panel and by way of layering and building-up of handmade paint they slowly and painstakingly emerge as ‘morphing fields’, a body-form that ricochets within and without and builds momentum, a centrifugal-like force that emanates off the picture plane and exists markedly, agelessly, in the face of Postmoderism’s gaze. This movement dictates direction and hence allows the form to dictate design, starts designing itself, and trajects forward. Judy explains it thusly:
 
It’s a real different look at space. I’m not really going in the direction of other painters in terms of focusing on the surface and the strokes. I’m really rushing past that to what’s going on in the space and how it’s developing with time. That’s why I’ll often have a shape on the canvas that fairly ignores the exterior. That’s why I liked the plywood; it was like a floor for the shapes to dance on. My compositions often move forward more and laterally incidentally, whereas typical compositions think about the way a viewer is going to relate to the exterior rectangle. I’m just leaving it there as a floor and moving forward.”
 
Rifka’s single shapes blow past Kasmir Malevich’s Constructivist ideas about space by eliminating entirely any referential or emotionally conjured ideas about space. These works retain too that pictorial flatness Clement Geenberg salivated for. The art critic Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe took note (while also noting how specially unique he found them) in an Artforum article in 1974: 
 
Judy Rifka’s paintings dominated the show. Rifka’s paintings are flatter than almost any other work that comes to mind, including that of others — Robert Ryman, for example — who are concerned with the material qualification of the painted object. At the same time they suggest a space infinitely deep, and its the scope of this evocation and accommodation of paradox of a subjectively considered material dialectic — which leads me to say that Rifka’s is the most devastatingly original formulation of painting’s identity that I’ve encountered in some time.”
 
Fast-forward 40 years for a perfect example of historical curation not paying attention, not recognizing, their 70’s darling: In a February 2007, New York Times review of High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting, 1967-1975, Roberta Smith writes of the ‘brave if deficient show’:
 
In other instances the selected works are minor, as derivative now as they were then. Or the ideas are so literal or reduced that the artists couldn’t go anywhere with them. Some inclusions seem almost ludicrous, given certain rather obvious absences... of Judy Rifka, Bill Jensen or Gary Stephan, whose efforts... were among the most closely watched developments of the early ’70s.”
 
How wonderful and apropos for Roberta Smith to point out Judy Rifka’s absence from this historical survey. Closer inspection, however, more telling: Rifka’s ex-husband, the artist David Reed – currently showing at Gagosian in New York – proposed that show and was – along with Independent Curators International – behind organizing it. The zeitgeist only human after-all. Slight aside, life goes on and Ms. Rifka, formerly Ms. Tenenbaum, modeled in 1968 for Alfred Leslie’s iconic painting, Pregnant Tenenbaum, created while the young Rifka was carrying David Reed’s son (novelist John Reed) and a student at New York Studio School, keeps pushing, keeps moving along. The mid-sixties found Rifka in London living for a month with folksinger Donovan as he was composing “Season of the Witch” and Hunter College beckoned too where she studied with Ron Gorchov whom she’d meet-up again for two years in the 70’s – this time out-of-school – as he was working his ambidextrous saddle paintings and she her single shapes on plywood.
 
Rifka’s movement remains constantly in flux and all the little anecdotes of past times and place important and relevant to the bigger picture – to the layering and building of Rifka’s spirit — and how she carried that spirit with her wherever she went — in every decade — whether it was to Danceteria from ‘79-’86 to showcase her early video work or to Dubai for her Retroactive exhibition at the Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, Rifka brings it. Just like she brought it to Tompkins Square Park to have long talks with artist David Wojnarowicz or to Fun Gallery to share (in person) with friend Patti Astor whom she painted in a work titled “Constructivist Nightlife” that Ricard declared: “The Modernist stylizations had come to life.” She brought it to the fourth floor of the notorious Mudd Club where Keith Haring curated and hung her paintings side-by-side with his and where Ricard first saw Rifka’s works and he recognized their importance immediately just as he was the first to recognize Jean-Michel Basquiat and write about him critically for the first time in the very same article The Radiant Child cited above. Yes! That article was as much about SAMO as it was about Haring and Ahearns and Van Gogh and the one and only, Judy Rifka. If the German philosopher Georg Hegel were around today, he’d proclaim affirmatively that Rifka is beyond doubt the absolute Geist ihrer Zeit (spirit of her time). With emphasis, of course, on the ihrer. And the best part? Her time is now.

 

With her career spanning over fifty solo shows and countless group exhibitions, Judy's work can be seen in numerous public collections, museums and foundations throughout the United States and Europe. Major exhibitions have featured her work including:

 

  • 1983 Whitney Biennial and the 1975 Whitney Biennial
  • The Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • Documenta VII, Kassel
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
  • The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York
  • The Brooklyn Museum
  • The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield
  • Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna
  • Laforet Museum, Tokyo
  • Kansas City Art Institute
  • The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers
  • Kunst Rai, Amsterdam
  • Mint Museum, Charlotte
  • Bass Museum of Art, Miami
  • The Museum of Fine Art, Boston
  • Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

 

Foundation and Museum Collections

  • Academy Art Museum
  • Akron Art Museum
  • Albright-Knox Art Gallery
  • Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive BAM/PFA,
  • Columbia Museum of Art
  • Dallas Museum of Art
  • Dayton Art Institute
  • Delaware Art Museum
  • Eli Broad Family Foundation, Los Angeles
  • Fleming Museum of Art, University of Vermont
  • Fogg Museum, Harvard University
  • Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota
  • Frederick R. Weisman Foundation, Los Angeles
  • Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University
  • Honolulu Academy of Arts
  • Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College
  • Huntington Art Gallery, University of Texas, Austin
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, Dubai
  • Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Loch Haven Art Center, Orlando
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Museum of Modern Art, Print
  • New Gallery of Contemporary Art, Cleveland
  • New Mexico Museum of Art
  • New York Public Library
  • Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach
  • Oklahoma City Museum of Art
  • Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
  • Plains Art Museum
  • Portland Art Museum, Oregon
  • Portland Museum of Art, Maine
  • RISD Museum, Rhode Island School of Design
  • Seattle Art Museum
  • South Dakota Art Museum, South Dakota State University
  • Staatliches Museum, Berlin
  • The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu
  • The Danheisser Foundation, New York
  • The Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, State Fair Community College
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
  • The Mint Museum, Charlotte
  • Toledo Museum of Art
  • University of Alaska Museum of the North
  • Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
  • Vogel 50x50
  • Weatherspoon Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

 

Corporate COLLECTIONS

  • ARCO, Los Angeles
  • American Express, New York
  • Bank of America, San Francisco
  • Bear Stearns, New York
  • The Boston Company, Inc., New York
  • Chemical Bank, New York
  • Exxon Corporation, New York
  • Goldman Sachs, New York
  • General Electric Company, Ridgefield, Connecticut
  • Hospital Corporation of America, Nashville
  • J.C. Penny, Stamford, Connecticut
  • The Levy Organization, Chicago
  • Standard Oil of Ohio
  • Madison Square Garden Corporation, New York
  • Merril Lynch, New York
  • Nations Bank, Charlotte
  • Needham, Harper & Speers, New York
  • Prudential Insurance Company, Newark
  • Readers' Digest, Pleasantville, New York
  • Wadsworth Publishing Company, San Francisco

 

Selected Solo Exhibitions

  • 2019 Core Club, NYC: Ionic Ironic
  • 2017 Merage Gallery, at Sinai Temple, Los Angeles, Selected Survey
  • 2016 Jean-Paul Najar Foundation, Dubai, Judy Rifka : Retro Active Retrospective, One-Woman Retrospective Exhibition
  • 2016 The Amstel Gallery at the Yard, Judy Rifka's Retrospective, curator, Gregory de la Haba, works of 40 years
  • 2015 The Amstel Gallery at the Yard, Curator, Gregory de la Haba, Comparative Retrospective, 2 person, including Jay Milder
  • 2014 Trestle Projects, BAS , Brooklyn, NY
  • 2013 106 BLDG30 , One hour video show of J Rifka, Brooklyn, New York** Video
  • 2011 Art6 Gallery, Richmond, Virginia
  • 2007 The Chocolate Factory, New York
  • 2001 Gallery X, Harlem. New York.
  • 1997 Alley Culture Gallery, Detroit, Michigan
  • 1996 Hofstra University, Collins Gallery, New York
  • 1994 "Judy Rifka," Information Gallery, New York
  • 1994 "Judy Rifka," Cade Tompkins, Bridgehampton
  • 1992 Bistro 100, NationsBank Building Building, Charlotte
  • 1991 "Judy Rifka," Real Art, New York "Judy Rifka Drawings 1980-1990," Brooke Alexander, New York
  • 1991 "Judy Rifka: Paintings and Works on Paper," Ratner Gallery, Chicago Galerie Tobias Hirshmann, Frankfurt Ann Jaffee Gallery, Bay Harbor Ialands, Florida
  • 1989 Executive Reception Area, Madison Square Garden, New York
  • 1989 Bistro 110, Chicago
  • 1989 Saxon Lee Gallery, Los Angeles
  • 1989 Piramide Arte Contemporanea, Florence
  • 1988 Union Square Cafe, New York
  • 1988 Brooke Alexander, New York (catalogue)
  • 1988 Galerie Tobias Hischmann, Frankfurt
  • 1988 Gallery Ninety-Nine, Miami
  • 1987 Saxon-Lee Gallery, Los Angeles (brochure)
  • 1987 Brooke Alexander, New York
  • 1986 Anna Friebe Galerie, Cologne (catalogue)
  • 1986 "Judy Rifka Paintings," The Cleveland Museum of Art (brochure)
  • 1986 Stephen Wirtz Gallery, San Francisco
  • 1986 Gallery Ninety-Nine, Miami
  • 1985 Standard Oil of Ohio, headquarters, Cleveland
  • 1985 Brooke Alexander, New York
  • 1985 Anna Friebe Galerie, New York (brochure)
  • 1985 Gracie Mansion Gallery, New York
  • 1984 "Judy Rifka: Major Works 1981-84:. Knight Gallery. Spirit Square Art Center, Charlotte; traveled to Anderson Gallery, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond (catalogue)"
  • 1984 Galerie de France, Paris
  • 1984 Brooke Alexander, New York
  • 1984 51x Gallery, New York
  • 1984 Carl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati
  • 1983 Nicola Jacobs Gallery, London
  • 1983 Brooke Alexander, New York
  • 1983 Daniel Weinberg Gallery, San Francisco
  • 1982 Brooke Alexander (catalogue)
  • 1982 "Judy Rifka Paintings,"Reed College, Portland
  • 1982 Daniel Weinberg Gallery, San Francisco
  • 1981 Museum (Sub) Kultur, Berlin and Hamburg
  • 1980 Printed Matter, New York
  • 1978 Jean Paul Najar, Paris Name Gallery, Chicago
  • 1977 Franklin Furnace, New York
  • 1976 Susan Caldwell, New York
  • 1975 Daniel Weinberg Gallery, San Francisco
  • 1975 Artists Space, New York
  • 1974 John Doyle Gallery, Chicago

 

SELECTED Group EXHIBITIONS

  • 2017 Merage Gallery, at Sinai Temple, Los Angeles, Selected Survey
  • 2016 Chesapeake Film Festival

  • 2016 Greenpoint Film Festival** Video
  • 2015 Cape Cod Museum , Group exhibition “Lost Cat”
  • 2015 Amstel Yard, NYC
  • 2014 Cutlog Contemporary Art Fair, NYC, , Alison Pierz Booth
  • 2014 Lodge Gallery,, NYC “Madness”
  • 2014 Lodge Gallery, NYC Real Estate  “Colab Show,”
  • 2013 Trestle Gallery, Brooklyn, New York
  • 2013 ASC Gallery Chelsea, New York
  • 2012 Claire Oliver Gallery, NYC, “Beyond Bling”
  • 2011 "PooL Art Fair" NYC
  • 2011 "Herb and Dorothy Vogel Exhibition," Weatherspoon Art Museum,Greensboro, North Carolina
  • 2011 "Herb and Dorothy Vogel Exhibition," Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon
  • 2010 "Herb and Dorothy Vogel Exhibition," Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
  • 2010 "Herb and Dorothy Vogel Exhibition," Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware
  • 2010 "Herb and Dorothy Vogel Exhibition," Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
  • 2010 "Herb and Dorothy Vogel Exhibition," Honolulu Academy of Arts
  • 2010 "Herb and Dorothy Vogel Exhibition," Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, South Carolina
  • 2010 "Tom of Finland and Then Some," Feature inc, NYC
  • 2008 Red Saw Gallery, Newark, NJ
  • 2007 Alley Culture, Detroit
  • 2006 "The Downtown Show" Grey Art Gallery, New York
  • 2006 "Selections from the Collection" Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive BAM/PFA, Berkeley, CA
  • 2005 "Red White Blue," Spencer Brownstone, New York
  • 2005 "Cat-Holic," Australia, Tokyo
  • 2005 "Drawing Show," Alley Culture, Detroit
  • 2005 "The Continuous Mark," Studio School, New York
  • 2004 Brooke Alexander Editions, New York, NY
  • 2003 "Drawings," Alley Culture, Detroit
  • 2002 "Extreme Exteriors," Gallery X Harlem, New York
  • 2001 "Extreme Exteriors," Gallery X Harlem, New York
  • 1998 Herb and Dorothy Vogel Exhibition, Washington
  • 1997 Exit Art, Poster Exhibition, New York New York
  • 1996 Nora Haime Gallery, Group Exhibition, New York New York
  • 1996 Vogel Collection; University of Atlanta Gallery, Georgia
  • 1995 Mint Museum, Charlote, North Carolina
  • 1994 "Beyond the Pale," Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin
  • 1994 "Inaugural Exhibition," Kansas City Art Institute
  • 1994 Charlotee Crosby Kemper Gallery, Kansas City
  • 1994 "Group Exhibition," Joel Kessler Fine Art, Miami Beach Florida
  • 1994 "Time Out Youth Auction & Exhibition," Center of the Earth Gallery, Charlotte
  • 1994 "Metrolina Aids Project Exhibition," Knight Gallery/Spirit Square Arts Center, Charlotte
  • 1993 "Nature Morte: Alumni, New York Studio School Gallery, New York
  • 1992 "Group Exhibitions," Jerald Melberg Gallery, Inc., Charlotte
  • 1992 "Arts at Friends,"F, Bitter Larkin Gallery, Friends Se
  • 1992 "A feast for the Eyes," Associated American Artists, New York
  • 1991 "On the Move," Champion Gallery, Stamford, Connecticut
  • 1991 "Art for Your Collection," Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design
  • 1989 "At the Water's Edge: 19th Century American beach Scenes," Tampa Museum of Art Center for the Arts, Vero Beach; Center for the Arts, Virginia Beach; Arkansas Arts Center, Litle Rock
  • 1989 "Skowhegan Retrospective 1975-1985," Portland Museum of Art, Maine; traveled to Museum of Art, Colby College, Waterville, Maine
  • 1989 "Making their Mark: Women Artists Move in the Mainstream 1970-85," traveled to Cincinnati Art Museum; New Orleans; Denver Art Museum; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia
  • 1989 "Sounding The Depths: 150 Years of American Seascape," American Federation of Art, New York
  • 1989 "The Future Now," Bass Museum of Art, Miami
  • 1988 "Contemporary Art Auction 2," to benefit El Bohio Community Cultural Center, El Bohio, New York
  • 1988 "En Keuze/A Choice," Kunst Rai'88 Amserdam
  • 1988 "6 Contemporary Viewpoins in Painting and Sculpture," St. Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire
  • 1987 "The Gleaning Eye: Sandy Seawright Collection," Rowe Gallery, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • 1987 "Borrowed Embellishments," Kansas City Art Institute
  • 1987 "Group Show," Fashion Moda, Bronx, New York
  • 1986 "Between Painting and Sculpture," Palo Alto Cultural Center, California
  • 1986 "Painting and Sculpture Today: 1986," Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • 1986 "An American Renaissance: Painting and Sculpture since 1940," Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale
  • 1985 "Correspondences: New York Art Now," Laforet Museum, Harajuku, Tokyo; traveled to Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, Utsunomiya and Tagaki Hall Espace Media, Kobe
  • 1985 "Large Drawings," traveled exhibition organized by Independent Curators, Inc., New York
  • 1985 "Points of View: Four Painters," traveled exhibition organized by Independent Curators, inc. New York
  • 1985 "Anniottanta," Castel Sismondo, Pazazzina Mostre, Chiesa di Santa Maria ad Nives, Rimini
  • 1985 "Kunst Mit Eigen-Sinn," Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna
  • 1984 "The Human Condition: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Biennial III"
  • 1984 "American Neo-Expressionists," The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgfield, Connecticut
  • 1984 "Painting and Sculpture Today: 1984" Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • 1983 "Back to the Usa," Kunstmuseum, Luzern; traveled to Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn; Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart
  • 1983 "The American Artist as Printmaker- 23rd National Print Exhibition," the Brooklyn Museum
  • 1983 "1983 Biennial Exhibition," The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
  • 1983 "New York Painting Today," Carnegie Melton University, Pittsburg
  • 1983 "Painting, Sculpture, Totems and 3-D," Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York
  • 1982 "The Image Scavengers," Insitute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
  • 1982 "Urban Kisses," Institute of Contmeporary Art, London
  • 1982 "Documenta 7." Kassel
  • 1982 "New York Now," Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover
  • 1981 "Represent, Representation, Representative, "Brooke Alexander, New York
  • 1981 "Stay Tuned", The New Museum, New York
  • 1981 "35 Artists Return to Artists Space," Artists Space, New York
  • 1981 Lisson Gallery, London
  • 1980 "Times Square Show," New York
  • 1980 "Collaboative Projects Theme Shows a Benefit at Brooke Alexander, Inc., New York
  • 1979 Collaborative Projects Theme Shows curated by Jenny Holzer: "Manifesto Show," and "Income and Wealth Show," 5 Bleecker Street, "The Doctor and Dentists Show," and "The Dog Show," 591 Broadway, New York
  • 1978 "Opening Exhibition,' Insitute for Art & Urban Resources at P.S.1, Long Iland City, New York
  • 1975 Idea Warehouse, New York
  • 1975 "The Herbert and Dorothy Vogel Collection," Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia
  • 1975 "1975 Biennial Exhibition, "The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
  • 1974 Bykert Gallery, New York