Pati Hill Collection

Pati Hill, Alphabet of Common Objects, c. 1975-79, 45 black and white copier prints, each 11” x 8.5″, Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art

 

 

Copiers bring artists and writers together. Copies are an international visual language, which talks to people in Los Angeles and people in Prague the same way. Making copies is very near to speaking.

- Pati Hill

 

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Pati Hill (April 3, 1921 - September 19, 2014) was a writer and artist best known for her observational style of prose and her work with the photocopier. Hill’s work is distinguished by its focus on objects, her emphasis on the accessibility of the medium, and her efforts to unite image and text so that they might “fuse to become something other than either.” 

Hill is regarded as one of the most prolific artists to explore the photocopier, which she considered both a muse and collaborator. Initially, she gave primary credit to the copier as the “artist,” declaring that her role was secondary. Unlike most who flirted with the process, she continued to explore and advocate for xerography for 40 years, making her loyalty to the medium unmatched. While Hill was not the first to explore the image-making possibilities of the photocopier, which she referred to as a “found instrument, a saxophone without instructions,” her literal approach to the medium – “having come to copying from writing” – coupled with her lucid texts about it, have proved prescient. 

Her best known writings include a memoir, The Pit and The Century Plant (New York: Harper, 1955); The Nine Mile Circle (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1957); Prosper (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1960); One Thing I Know (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1962); The Snow Rabbit (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1962), a book of poetry illustrated by Galway Kinnell; Impossible Dreams (Cambridge: Alice James Books, 1976) illustrated with Hill's photocopies of photographs by Robert Doisneau, Ralph Gibson, Eva Rubinstein, and Willi Ronis; and Letters to Jill: a catalogue and some notes on copying (New York: Kornblee and Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1979). 

Her correspondence reflects her insights into the changing nature of art in the 20th century, as she engaged in thoughtful discussions with major contemporary figures including photographer Diane Arbus, designer Charles Eames, editor-author George Plimpton, and poets James Merrill and Galway Kinnell. Hill became an important part of the post-war expatriate artistic community in France centered around the Paris Review (a frequent publisher of her short stories), led by George Plimpton, Peter Matthiessen, Jean Stein, and Donald Hall.

Hill’s artwork is included in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Princeton University Art Museum, the Bayly Art Museum at the University of Virginia, the Cabinet des Estampes at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, and the Musée de Sens in Sens-en-Bourgogne.
 

ARRIVAL OF COLLECTION TO ARCADIA UNIVERSITY

In 2016, Arcadia University Art Gallery (now Arcadia Exhibitions) presented “Pati Hill: Photocopier–A Survey of Prints and Books (1974-83)”, curated by Director Richard Torchia and supported by The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. The culmination of this exhibition and its accompanying programming and publication – facilitated by a productive partnership between Hill, her estate, and Arcadia – led to the gift of the entirety of Hill's art and papers to the University to preserve and cultivate in perpetuity.

Thanks to a generous donation from Dorothy Lichtenstein, a friend of Hill’s, as well as a former Beaver College student, the collection was transported from France to Glenside in the fall of 2017.

Comprehensive and intact, the Pati Hill Collection at Arcadia University offers scholars direct access to primary source material pertaining to the juncture between art and technology as well as the evolution of a singular sensibility formed by the synergy between writing and image making.
 

PARTIAL LIST OF CONTENTS OF THE COLLECTION

  • an unpublished draft of Hill's biography of the photographer Diane Arbus (approximately 500 pages, typescript)
  • drafts of unpublished novels and short stories, artist's books, and a lifelong journal (The History of Dressmaking), including approximately 70 hand-written notebooks and a 300-page, typed manuscript that covers the time from June 1949 to the fall of 1969
  • a 100-page interview with Hill (conducted in 2010 by Avis Berman, Lichtenstein Foundation)
  • a 19-page draft (typescript) of a family biography (by Hill)
  • files related to Hill's contributions to The Paris ReviewNew Letters, and other literary journals and publications
  • correspondence with key figures from the worlds of literature and art, including George Plimpton; Galway Kinnell; James Merrill; Charles Eames; Hill's gallerist, Jill Kornblee; and Hill's husband, Paul Bianchini
  • files related to Hill's ongoing relationships with major figures in the evolution of communications technology (dating from 1975 to 1986), including corporate leaders at IBM and Xerox both in the United States and France
  • material (in English) related to Hill's unpublished journal documenting the process of making her project Photocopying Versailles
  • files related to Galerie Toner (Paris), and Galerie Toner (Sens), which Hill founded and ran with Paul Bianchini.
  • files related to Hill's invention of a "universal symbol language" and archive of "informational art" (originals and xerographs)
  • materials and related correspondence associated with the production of her illustrated novel, Impossible Dreams (1976), including original photographic prints by Robert Doisneau, Eva Rubenstein, Ralph Gibson, J.P. Sounder, Lucien Herve, Willi Ronis, and others
  • materials related to Hill's major projects published/and or exhibited at the Kornblee Gallery (1975-79); these include Common ObjectsPhotocopied Garments; Dreams Objects Moments; A Swan: An Opera in Nine Chapters; Men and Women in Sleeping Cars, and Italian Darns)
  • thousands of individual xerographic prints, both related to her major projects as well as individual works
  • a collection of large-scale etchings, drawing, and studies, including flowers pressed into large sheets of paper
  • approximately 50 bound collections of xerographic prints organized by theme and titled on their spines by Hill, comprised of individual sheets relating to specific subjects within her artistic projects
  • the IBM Copier II used by Hill in France (intact but currently non-operational)