Lisa Cooley is pleased to present new work by Erin Shirreff in her second solo exhibition with the gallery, Day is Long.
For the past few years, Shirreff has explored the effect of mediation on our experience of form. In works that draw together the mediums of photography, sculpture, and video, she has explored how the body responds to moments that are largely imagined, and the uncertainty at the root of knowing something that has transpired in a time or place other than our own.
An extension of these interests, the new body of work on view in Day is Long both reflects and speaks to ideas of process. The photographs, sculptures, and videos allude to the daily labors of a studio— repetition, vestigial form, documentation, remnants, blunt material fact. But of interest to Shirreff are the broader ideas at play: the twin acts of making and un-making, the burden of permanence, and what remains of an object once it is gone. Taken together, the works in the exhibition speak to a more general anxiety about finding one’s place within our moment in time.
No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, No. 8, No. 11, and No.19, seem to depict celestial bodies or minutely detailed geologic surfaces, but are in fact standardized documentation of daily residue from the artist’s studio. The images, single editions that are part of a larger set of 31 photographs, exist as highly specific markers of time and labor, and also as portals, sites of projection and fantasy.
In Drop (no. 1) and Drop (no. 3), small, hand-cut paper scraps—shapes that are formed by accident and left behind—are translated into large sheets of raw hot-rolled steel. Named after the factory shorthand for leftover material, the sculptures hang by steel rods in seemingly temporary layered arrangements of surface and edge that, from the side, disappear into line and curve. Despite their weight and stark materiality the sculptures appear almost two-dimensional. Despite their scale, the cut of scissors is still legible in their form. The works take on a monumental presence but are rooted in chance and debris.
Mounted along the gallery’s south wall is a series of sculptures titled Catalogue. Curved blocks of solid graphite-pigmented plaster sit along plaster-topped steel shelves in angled arrangements that resemble book collections or architectural models from another era. The curves derive from line drawings by Shirreff, each object formed from a unique mold. Their dark gray surfaces have a weathered relic-like appearance but they have no story to tell: they are mute, closed things, and exude a sense of blankness. They are objects that are collected and preserved, but for a purpose that is forgotten.
Adjacent to these works is the video Strip, rear-projected onto a double-sided vertical screen. The video tracks the edge of a photographed form, traveling quickly up and down its side, and the side of the photograph itself. Pieced together from multiple cuts, the motion flows and jumps at an erratic pace and creates a simple, stark abstraction by bisecting the video frame at a series of vertical angles. The entire form is never pictured—the video presents a series of fragmented views—but the speed of movement and the scale of the projection pulls at the body nonetheless.
Projected in the west gallery is Medardo Rosso, Madame X, 1896, a looped video that takes as its subject a catalogue reproduction of Rosso’s well-known sculpture. Rosso often photographed his own work but this particular image is documentation taken in the 50s after his death depicting Madame X alone atop a pedestal peering out from the gloom. Shirreff reprinted this image on papers with varying surface finishes and, like in earlier videos, re-photographed these secondary images while using a collection of hand-held lights and basic analog studio effects, choreographing the video by sequencing the resulting stills. Madame X, whose identity has always been in question, comes in and out of presence as the video progresses: she sits trapped beneath the half-tone dot pattern of the original black-and-white reproduction only to then emerge beneath the animating glow of a flashlight. Rosso sculpted material in a manner that would come alive under natural light. In this way Shirreff’s video of Madame X is a continuation of these aims—an attempt to prolong the resonance of her gaze.
Erin Shirreff (b. 1975) was born in British Columbia, Canada, and now lives and works in New York. Pictures, a solo exhibition of her film and video work is currently on view at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver. Also on view is Erin Shirreff: Inside the White Cube at White Cube in London, and Lake at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Recent and upcoming group exhibitions include Lens Drawings, Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris; Remainder, Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa; The Camera’s Blind Spot, Museo di Nuoro, Sardinia; Lost Line, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Once Removed, Yale University Art Gallery; and Voice of Images, François Pinault Foundation, Venice. She will be an artist-in-residence at Artpace, San Antonio in fall 2013. A catalogue of her work was recently co-published by the Carleton University Art Gallery, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, and the Contemporary Art Gallery.