This Exhibition Has Ended

February 11, 2021
February 25, 2021
On the east façade, sunset to midnight

Paul Pfeiffer: Morning After the Deluge will be projected on the Johnson Museum's east façade daily from sunset to midnight.

Inspired by J. M. W. Turner’s similarly named painting from 1843, Light and Colour (Goethe’s Theory)—The Morning after the Deluge, Paul Pfeiffer’s video work opens with a white-hot sun suspended mid-frame in a brilliant red sky with a band of dark blue waves scrolling down from the top of the frame to its bottom. To create his breathtaking projection loop, the artist filmed Cape Cod sunrises and sunsets and digitally fused them into a single image. While Turner dissolved the features of traditional landscape painting, such as the horizon line and single-point perspective, into a painterly mist in his vision of the sun, Pfeiffer complicates the location of the observer within the picture and investigates the nature of vision itself by flipping the relationship between sun and horizon line, making the sun stable and the horizon unstable.

As Pfeiffer noted in a 2002 artist statement about this video:

The viewer is torn between two contradictory realities coexisting on a single picture plane. There is the reality of the sun rising and setting behind the earth’s horizon and the opposing reality of the earth’s horizon moving across the surface of the sun. The resulting split sense of reality in the eye of the beholder is the real theme and subject of Morning After the Deluge.

It is precisely this instability of the onlooker’s position that resonates so strongly with our current moment, combining, in the words of one of my curatorial colleagues, “a sense of hopefulness and foreboding.”

Andrea Inselmann
Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art


Pfeiffer was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1966 of Philippino extraction. He has been based in New York since 1990, where he earned his MFA from Hunter College and participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program. He has had solo shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art; MIT’s List Visual Arts Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León in León, Spain; the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a Fulbright-Hayes Fellowship and the inaugural Bucksbaum Award from the Whitney Museum. Pfeiffer was the subject of a retrospective at Sammlung Goetz in Munich, Germany in 2011. In 2018 he was named Teiger Mentor in the Arts by the Department of Art at Cornell University.


Above: Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), Light and Colour (Goethe's Theory)—the Morning after the Deluge—Moses writing the Book of Genesis, exhibited 1843. Photo © Tate; image released under Creative Commons License CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported).