Enjoy a Curator's Tour of this exhibition September 3 from 12:15-1pm. Free with gallery admission.
When we look at the connections between artists, some are conceptual, some are stylistic or formal, a developmental process, or the common experience of working in a specific time and place. For Steve Linn and Robert Schefman, all of these threads run through their works, outweighing the differences between sculpture and painting, their subjects, or personal points of view. There are shared values at the core of their approaches to making art.
The most important similarity is their use of metaphor, that promises within the work, to make sense of a life lived, what Linn refers to as "documentary sculpture", or the connections between lives, in Schefman's paintings of fiction. They take the disparate parts and pieces of their subject, and distill them to an essential vocabulary of elements that create a narrative. They use illusion (or realism) to draw the viewer in, and connect the real world of the viewer with the metaphor they have assembled.
They share an approach to process. Beginning with source material, they research and develop an idea from different directions to find a focus, a framework to construct their images around. The images that find their way into the works are not random, but must reinforce the idea. In Linn's sculpture, individual elements are fashioned out of different materials; bronze, glass and wood, and brought together in a single composition. In Schefman's paintings, the elements are integrated into an image that tries to explain a story in a single frame.
Sculpture and illusionist painting are both labor intensive, requiring appropriate time and skills, so that makes developmental drawing essential. Both artists evolve their ideas through numerous sketches that combine, test and manipulate the elements until they come together in the final concept. Here again, there is a common approach to craftsmanship; it is not an end, but should serve the idea. Though, both Linn and Schefman chose illusion as the best way to reach their goals, they are not interested in creating portraits. Their agenda is not the exact replication of form, but the exploration of a subject and the involvement of the viewer into this world.
Their concepts and processes create layers of meaning for the viewer, and gaps that the viewer must fill with their understanding. The experience can be as simple as appreciating the formal concerns; the illusion and composition, or go on to recognizing the narrative. A deeper understanding of the subject might even lead the viewer to investigate and interpret the subject, just as the artist has done.
Linn and Schefman first met in New York as Soho neighbors in the 1970s, a small community of artists in the larger community of "creatives" in New York. As they both began young families, Linn moved to the south of France where he continues to maintain his studio. Schefman moved to the Detroit area to raise his family, and continue his work. Over the years, they have remained friends who lend a critical eye to each other, periodically marveling at how their focus and approaches were overlapping. Experiences are unique. Individual journeys can run parallel, but the results remain unique expressions of the artist's experience.
This is the first time their work has been shown together.
Sculptural narratives, non-verbal documentaries; over the past number of years my work has been principally about artists and other creative people who have done wonderful things. Discovering the poetry of those lives and inventive minds in pursuit of their various disciplines has allowed me to experience in a vague, vicarious, sense the different time frames and geographical locations that this cast of characters inhabits and to imagine their intellectual process in order to enhance my own. Not losing site of the fact that I am a sculptor, my objective is to combine these emotional experiences with the principles of design to create a well-crafted image that reveals the full depth of the character and is a work of art unto itself.
Initially moved by letters, photos and family documents that I discovered while moving my mother from her home, my current work references the constantly changing formats and distillation of personal information.
We can transfer information without personal experience through writing, letters, photographs, video and documents. We progress by an accumulation of information. How can we maintain our personal histories if thoughts and images are incomplete, and we cannot access the information? Will we be able to access family photos stored on a floppy disc, a zip drive, or even a CD, instead of paper documents stored in an attic trunk? Will generations be able to discover the love letters that opened one heart to another, if they were sent by email? Artifacts last beyond generations, what about digital storage?
Who will decide what photographs, letters and documents are important enough to be re-formatted and moved forward through the numerous format changes in our lifetime. If information is processed into nice, easily digestible slogans and sound bites, we often grab only the information that suits our immediate purpose, relying on distilled thoughts and truncated video experience as needed. Knowledge for it's own sake carries the limitless potential of combining random ideas into new thoughts. Relying on distilled thoughts and truncated video experience raises questions about information reduced and isolated from context. This is the reference for the recent work "Collected Knowledge".
My process begins with a single issue; a starting point to discover tangential issues that increase my scope. These satellite ideas generate my images.
I have chosen to work through illusionist narrative. The narrative content continues to feed a fascination with connecting threads in social fabric; the illusionist format uses the unchanging reality of sight to reinforce continuity.