Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jeffrey Schiff show opens Tuesday at Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan

Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University
238 Washington Ter., Middletown, (860) 685-3355
Jeffrey Schiff: Double Vision: Transactions of the American Philosophical Society
Jan. 21—Feb. 27, 2011.
Opening reception: Tues., Jan. 25, 5—7 p.m.
Gallery talk at 5:30 p.m.

Press release

Double Vision: Transactions of the American Philosophical Society is a solo exhibition of new work by artist Jeffrey Schiff, which exposes how unconscious projections from America’s colonial past shape perceptions of its current reality.

In 1786, members of the American Philosophical Society, including such luminaries as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Priestly, published personal accounts of the natural world in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (subtitled “Useful Knowledge”). Schiff has created a body of work distilling anecdotes from these texts into concrete images: a field of terracotta pots—some smashed to reveal interior organs; an 18th-century painting of a slave girl transformed into a fragmented nautical map; laboratory experiments in purity and contamination; and stereoscopic displays of animal hearts.

Double Vision will be on view in Wesleyan University’s Zilkha Gallery from Fri., Jan. 21 through Sun., Feb. 27, 2011. The public is invited to attend the opening reception on Tues., Jan. 25 from 5–7 p.m., with a gallery talk at 5:30 p.m.

Double Vision is based specifically on three accounts from the Transactions: Two Hearts Found in One Partridge, Account of a Worm in a Horse’s Eye, and Some Account of a Motley Coloured, or Pye Negro Girl and Mulatto Boy. These texts are records of personal observations and explanations of the natural world, which purport to be scientific accounts, yet reveal themselves as wholly subjective descriptions rife with the biases and superstitions of the day. Together, the texts unwittingly reveal the era’s unresolved struggle between rationality and superstition, democratic ideals and cultural traditions of elitism and slavery—struggles we have inherited as we negotiate (sometimes violently) conflicting views of scientific enterprise, globalism, religious and ethnic identity, and the information age. Schiff’s sculptural extrapolations intervene in the historical text, giving physical form to the preoccupations of America’s early conscience. In contrast with a more traditional exhibition format of presenting historical documents and artifacts as time capsules of a particular era, Double Vision abstracts from the text to initiate a dialogue across time and culture.

The exhibition is curated by Andrea Hill of Seven Hills Advisory.

Jeffrey Schiff is a sculptor/installation artist whose work explores the interplay between order and disorder, rationality and custom, and the uses of information. He has received numerous fellowships and prizes, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, a Senior Scholar Fulbright Fellowship to India, Bogliasco Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio residencies, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts.

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