Pati Hill installing her exhibition “Photocopied Objects” at the Kornblee Gallery, New York, 1975; Courtesy Estate of Pati Hill.
Pati Hill (1921-2014) was born in Ashland, Kentucky and raised in Virginia. Demonstrating an interest in writing and art from an early age, she took courses for a year at George Washington University and in 1940 moved to New York, where she became a fashion model. In 1947, Hill relocated to Paris to introduce the first American collection for the couturier Molyneux. By the early 1950s, however, in an effort to concentrate on her writing, she moved to a derelict cottage in the French countryside in Montacher, Yonne, where she completed her first two books, a memoir, The Pit and The Century Plant (1955), and a novel, The Nine Mile Circle (1957), which The New York Times favorably compared to the work of William Faulkner. With the encouragement of George Plimpton, she began publishing her short stories in The Paris Review and in 1957, after she had returned to the United States, took up residence New York City and Stonington, Conn.
In 1959, Hill met publisher and art dealer Paul Bianchini, whom she married in 1960. (Bianchini’s New York gallery was one of the first commercial venues to exhibit Pop art.) In 1962, Hill gave birth to a daughter and published her first book of poems, The Snow Rabbit, illustrated by poet Galway Kinnell.
Despite multiple residencies at MacDowell and Yaddo into the early ’70s, Hill did not publish again until 1975 when Slave Days, her first book to include images of her copier prints, was produced with the assistance of her Stonington neighbor, poet James Merrill. New York gallerist Jill Kornblee gave Hill five solo exhibitions at her 57th Street Gallery between 1975 and 1979.
In 1976, Hill received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for Impossible Dreams. Instrumental support followed in 1977 in the form of a two-and-a-half-year loan of a “Copier II” from IBM thanks to the influence of designer Charles Eames. Hill moved to Paris in 1980, where she spent five years photocopying the details of the palace and grounds of Versailles, eventually presenting the resulting large-scale composite works on the site as well as other venues in France. In 1989, Hill and Bianchini opened Galerie Toner in Sens, a small town 75 miles southeast of Paris, where Hill had settled in the late 80s. Dedicated to presenting art made with the photocopier, the venue’s Parisien counterpart opened three years later. Hill remained committed to the medium and encouraged its use by others, both novices and veterans alike, publishing books and organizing exhibitions until the age of 91.
Venues that have exhibited Hill’s copier prints include the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Franklin Furnace (in New York City); the Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and the Cabinet des Estampes de la Bibliothèque Nationale de France (in Paris); Musée Lambinet (in Versailles); L’Orangerie des Musées de Sens, France; Gallery Modena, Bologne, Italy; and the Stedelijk, Museum, Amsterdam. Her artwork is in included in the permanent collections of Bayly Art Museum (Fralin Museum), University of Virginia; the Bibliothèque Nationale de France; and L’Orangerie des Musées de Sens, among others.
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