Symposium Exhibition: Flotsam

Kaufman Gallery, 422 Acton Court



Curated by Sarah Kabot

Participating Artists: Christi Birchfield, Elana Herzog, Elizabeth Duffy, Lauren Kalman, David Krofta, Simone Schiffmacher, Justin Woody


Cheap or pricey.

Disposable articles or durable goods.

The materials skittering about the oceans on container ships, making the global economy go. The use or exchange value of these items seems self-evident. The artists included in this exhibition purposely misappropriate familiar products from this import/ export consumer culture. Rather than deconstructing items, less a pure critique, these artists seize possession of them, re-contextualizing the goods. Some reclaim tawdry articles as emblems of power or comfort. Others resuscitate discarded materials, imposing new seductive and disturbing functions on banal objects. The baggage (connotations) of past functional and symbolic uses clings lightly to the reinventions presented.

Highly labor-intensive processes are employed to create the works included in this exhibition. But, that labor (as it is in much of the consumer economy) is a secondary or tertiary component of the content of each piece. The labor here is a matter-of-fact tool employed to create exuberant and decadent facades. Those surfaces dazzle and contrast with the sinister undercurrent present in each artwork.

In reference to the theme of the conference, Crosscurrents: Land, Labor and the Port, this exhibition understands the “port” to be a transitional point, a border. Not only an edge, the border is also an open space where objects are repurposed, ownership is in transition, and individuals feel the freedom of self-reinvention.

Curator Sarah Kabot’s work has shown nationally, and abroad including exhibitions at Smack Mellon (NY), the Akron Museum of Art (OH), the Museum of Contemporary Art (OH), the Drawing Center (NY), the Peabody Essex Museum (MA), Mixed Greens Gallery (NY), and Tegnerforbundet in Oslo, Norway. Her work is in the public collections of the West Collection, the Cleveland Clinic, and Progressive Insurance. In 2014, Sarah completed two large public art commissions in Ohio. Recent honors include residencies through Dieu Donne Papermill (NY), the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (NY), Headlands Center for Art (CA), and the Dave Bown Grand Prize.

Elana Herzog’s stapled textile installations and paper pieces balance brutal and ornamental aesthetics. Bits of found mass-produced fabrics are accumulated, obscured then partially excavated. Making and unmaking (ripping and shredding) are intimately tied together. Herzog has exhibited in numerous cities in the U.S. and Europe, including at the New Britain Museum of American Art and the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway. She is the recipient of many awards including the Joseph and Anni Albers Residency and the Marie Walshe Sharpe Foundation Residency, as well as grants including the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award.

Using a printing press Christi Birchfield crushes dyed flowers bleach and ink within folded sheets of paper and fabric. These textiles are unfolded, burnt and further manipulated to create lurid wall pieces and installations that equally refer to Modernist gestural painting and burnt effigies. Birchfield has participated in residencies at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Grafikwerkstatt in Dresden, Germany. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally in cities including New York, San Antonio, Dresden, and Qijiang, China.

David Krofta is a puppet-maker, performer, and mixed-media artist devoted to creating engrossing events. He appropriates and distorts bizarre tropes from various types of American entertainment including comic books, cooking shows and children’s tv. Krofta has been integral to several collective projects that range from Body Invisible – a live comedy puppet performance, to Double Dutch Will Take You Higher – a performance-art jump roping team. Krofta was a puppeteer and production artist on the television program Food Party on the Independent Film Channel. His work has been featured in two books published by Gestalten press: Tangible and Hair Em’, Scare Em’.

Simone Schiffmacher’s intricately beaded sculptures mismatch familiar logos and found items, creating mutant objects that subvert accepted notions of regarding the stability of corporate identity. These conglomerations are often presented partially disassembled, further heightening a viewer’s cognitive dissonance in encountering a branded object that seems at once familiar and strange. Schiffmacher has exhibited at the Cranbrook Museum of Art, Maryland Federation of Art Circle Gallery, Five Points Gallery, the Detroit Artist Market, Art Space Gallery, Praxis Fiber Workshop, Hatch Gallery, Canton Museum of Art, and Reinberger Galleries.

Elizabeth Duffy transforms fabrics printed with patterns ordinarily found on security envelope interiors into familiar domestic objects – including quilts and upholstery. These works both allude to and subvert the feelings of privacy, comfort and safety we seek in our everyday lives. Duffy has exhibited widely including at the Drawing Center and the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art. She has attended numerous residencies including the Bogliasco Foundation in Italy and the Corporation of Yaddo, as the Louise Bourgeois resident. She has also received many awards including grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Pollock Krasner Foundation.

In a series of works collectively titled But if the Crime is Beautiful… Lauren Kalman responds to the legacy of Adolf Loos’s text Ornament and Crime. Through costume and photography she contrasts the implicit sexual deviancy of adornment with the aesthetic purity of mass-produced Minimalist furniture. Kalman’s work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery. Many texts feature her work, including Hand + Made: The Performative Impulse in Contemporary Craft. In October 2016 Kalman will exhibit and have work included in the permanent collection at the Museum of Arts and Design.

Justin Woody weaves cheap embellishments for personal ornamentation into his sculptural and photographic work – hair extensions, faux pearls, and tiger-print fabric – creating mask-like assemblages that probe African American stereotypes including Mammie, ganstas, and minstrelsy. Woody is a recent graduate from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and an emerging artist and actor based in Cleveland Ohio.

All exhibitions have been organized in partnership with Art Rise Savannah

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