Lesson 43: Queue
Closing Performances: Friday, January 4th and Saturday, January 5th
Lombard-Freid Projects is pleased to present Lesson 43: Queue, William Earl Kofmehl III first solo exhibition at the gallery.
Kofmehl laments the fading of didacticism within Contemporary Art. Lesson 43: Queue incorporates multiple elements of Kofmehl's practice including performance, sculpture, installation and video. The opening night performance features Kofmehl, his father and two brothers-in-law in an instructional workshop, which explores Fair-Trade entrepreneurship, angling, and illiteracy prevention. Sculptures cast from bronze and steel, wood and marble “teaching aids” found throughout the transformed gallery space function as props for the dissemination of a triumphant message of hope, redemption and sacrifice.
The educative two-hour workshop inaugurates the exhibition on the evening of November 30th with a convoluted plot involving Kofmehl’s character’s, “William of the Cloud Forest”, and his encounter with a resplendent Quetzal in the 15th Century Costa Rican Rain Forest. A full size Pre-Columbian cast bronze suit of armor, once housing "William of the Cloud Forest”, marks the entrance of the gallery. The Suit of Armor begins to tell the tale of an innocuous creature, residing in an out-of-the-way nook of a small, quiet universe, catalyzed by an event as unpredictable as the shifting of desert sands, a swarm of controversy and a storm of devastation.
The “Educator” as performed by Dr. William Kofmehl, Jr. utilizes a linguistic approach pioneered in Latin America by the Wycliffe Bible Translators, teaching the unique, and irregular, English letter combination “Qu”, found in Lesson: 43 as in “Queen”, “Queue”, and “Quetzal”. This approach initiates functionally illiterate adult students into the arcane mysteries of English spelling, opening for the reader the “Thousand Most Common English Words” found on the Thorndyke-Lorge List of 1947, as well as thousands more in associated “word families”. The new reader, in this case, Kofmehl’s character “William of the Cloud Forest”, is then released from membership in the growing association of 40 million functionally illiterate U.S. residents.
“White Sock”, performed by Brother-in-law #2, presents “William of the Cloud Forest’s” involvement in the Fair-Trade movement. “White Sock” describes the unique rainforest seed jewelry, which fits thematically with the fun and exotic image that zoos, aquariums and museums are trying to project. The jewelry is a blend of natural seeds, stones, cast bronze and colorful beads. This creates a product that is natural and stylish at the same time – or as “William of the Cloud Forest” likes to say “Naturally Hip”. The rainforest seed jewelry is created using 15 different types of seeds, 50 types of stones, 5 bronze alloys and 20 types of beads, offering hundreds of styles and designs. This diversity offers more choices to the consumer, which in turn leads to greater sales. Some designs are more colorful (pinks and rainbows) which appeal to kids, while the more natural colors (blues, greens and browns) appeal to teens and adults. Besides producing an attractive and quality product, “William of the Cloud Forest” carries well-designed and informative hangtags. Each tag has a story about the project and general information about the seeds used. This personal information allows the stores to charge a premium above the mass produced factory items from China. Even though “William of the Cloud Forest (WOTCF)” jewelry is produced using fair-trade standards, a price structure has been created that allows it to be competitive with other items on the world market. By purchasing in quantity, zoos and museums are able to buy WOTCF rainforest jewelry, triple the price and still come within a consumer price point that appeals to the average family. Just as organics have changed the way consumers shop for food, Fair-Trade is the up and coming trend that is changing the way consumers shop for gift and retail items. Both trends are part of the changing awareness of society on the effect their purchases have on global sustainability and conservation.
“The Angler”, performed by Brother-in-law #1, is concerned with the capture of Musky, a fairly large freshwater fish of North America. The “Angler” uses ergonomically correct select cast bronze handle rods providing all-day comfort during high-speed retrieves of the toothiest fish found in the Great Lakes. His encounter with “White Sock” results in the trade of a spool of 17 lb. monofilament line for rain forest seed earrings which double as superior fishing lures, especially when enhanced by adding some of the reddish colored hair from the locks of “William of the Cloud Forest’s” head. Using standard fly tying materials and techniques, “The Angler” ties a Queue of hair to the back of the rainforest seed earrings, giving them a buck tail spinner style action. The pulsating movement of the hair during a retrieve lures even the most finicky of fish from any species, from bluegill to the mighty musky.
Following graduation from Yale’s Master of Fine Arts Program, Kofmehl moved back to Pittsburgh where he currently lives and works.