Werner Pfeiffer (German-American, born 1937), Slight Shift. Dimensional print: intaglio, collage, embossment, 1979. Framed: 22 x 22 x 2 in. Photo courtesy of the artist. ©Werner Pfeiffer.

TOLEDO, OH.- The possibilities of paper are explored in a new exhibition that opened Feb. 6 at the Toledo Museum of Art. Nearly 200 one-of-a-kind and limited edition artist books, dimensional prints, collages and experimental works are being shown in Drawn, Cut & Layered: The Art of Werner Pfeiffer. Some of the works are being seen publically for the first time.

What really stands out is how diversely creative and productive Werner Pfeiffer is,” said Toledo Museum of Art Director Brian Kennedy. “Because of the caliber of his creativity, we felt he deserved a major exhibition.”


Werner Pfeiffer (German-American, born 1937), Untitled. Collage, 2003. Photo courtesy of the artist. ©Werner Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer has used paper as both a canvas and a structural material for the past 50 years. As a sculptor, printmaker and painter, he is fascinated with machines and machine-like constructions. His drawings are schematic and his complex books have intricate moving parts.

Those influences and a fascination with puzzles, metaphors and word play have inspired works that are thought-provoking in themselves, said exhibition curator Thomas Loeffler. “When people see these works all together we hope they will be inspired to take the time to be creative themselves,” Loeffler said.


Werner Pfeiffer (German-American, born 1937), Black Center. Dimensional print: intaglio, collage, embossment, 1979. Photo courtesy of the artist. ©Werner Pfeiffer.

Among works in the show are Hocus Pocus, an homage to Dada, an artistic movement born out of negative reaction to the horrors of World War I; Zig Zag, a book in which Pfeiffer investigates the nature of paper, creating a double accordion fold to show that “paper is not only a surface but has architectural structure”; and The Banana Drawings, a series of drawings with seven basic images that reoccur in different configurations, in a combination of drawing and silkscreen prints.

Also on view is Liber Mobile, in which the alphabet becomes a visual element. The piece was inspired by the writings of Marshall McLuhan (who famously pointed out that “the medium is the message” in the 1960s). The letterforms simulate interpretive content, suggesting legibility, but the artwork is simply an interaction of form and color.


Werner Pfeiffer (German-American, born 1937), Return to Title Page from Abracadabra. Artist’s book, 2007. Photo courtesy of the artist. ©Werner Pfeiffer.

While influenced by his contemporaries, Pfeiffer’s earliest memories of life in Germany during and after World War II have impacted his work the most. “There was no paper; there were no books. Censorship was everywhere. Since childhood I’ve always been sensitive to what is being done to books and with books,” the 77-year-old artist has said.