Erin Shirreff: Sculptures and Their Shadows @Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

JTF (just the facts): A total of 9 works, on view in the main gallery space and the entry area.

The show includes:

  • 5 dye sublimation prints on aluminum, latex paint, 2019, 2021, sized roughly 72x100x6, 55x53x6, 80x59x6, 73x71x6, 71x60x6 inches, in editions of 4
  • 3 bronzes, 2019, 2021, sized roughly 20x8x16, 94x86x57, 39x32x23 inches, in editions of 10, 3, and 5
  • 1 collage of book pages, pins, 2018, sized 12×12 inches, unique

(Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: Erin Shirreff’s sophisticated new show feels like a direct progression from her last, in ways that methodically build upon the foundation of her earlier artistic ideas. Shirreff has been experimenting with folded book pages, and the sculptural fragmentation and juxtaposition that can be created from encouraging the images on those pages to interact, for many years now, and in her 2018 gallery show (reviewed here), she introduced two new iterations of that body of work that opened up new artistic doors.

One took slices of those images, enlarged them, printed them on aluminum, and arranged them in deep frames, creating elegantly layered arrangements of sculptural, halftone-dotted scraps. The other took those same scraps (or their extraneous cast-offs) and transformed them into three-dimensional white sculptures, where the forms and their inversions wrestled for dominance.

This show essentially picks up where those promising projects left off, pushing and refining each of them further. In her newest layered works, she steps back just a bit from close enlargement of the component imagery, making the sliced sculptural forms slightly more recognizable and the halftone dots slightly less prominent. She’s also re-introduced color, allowing pops of red, orange, green, and other colors to enliven the compositional layering.

“Standing Fawn” (from 2021) is the largest of these photographic works, and Shirreff uses varying tints of background blue to create a harmonious sense of connection between the disparate parts. In the foreground, sharp angles, rounded surfaces, curves, and blocks of burnished metal jostle for prominence, linking the image fragments into one almost continuous but chaotically jumbled formal agglomeration. In “Alpha” (also from 2021), a central orange zip divides the composition, with angled pieces of green and orange sculpture hanging off each side, the viewing angles twisted and skewed into a swirl of perspectives. And in “New Moon Construction, Number 10” (from 2021), Shirreff’s colors are richer and more autumnal, with textured semicircles and squares in a range of tones from mustard to blood red layered atop one another, with a jagged lightning strike form interrupting the mixing with bold authority. All three of these works are confident and complex, with Shirreff showing off a subtle sense of how elemental photographic fragments can fit together with sublime energy and vitality.

Shirreff’s sculptures have similarly become more refined. While her earlier efforts in white felt actively responsive to the rough opposing remnants of her cutouts, the new sculptures feel more carefully constructed and clarified. Executed in thin black metal (as an echo of the foamcore maquettes made in her studio), the works combine arcs in interlocked conflict, with curves thinning down to stable points and planes and semicircles flaring out like layered sails. Her results are pared down but still alive, the split repetitions (and their resulting spatial dynamics) now rendered in three sweeping dimensions, mixing the possibilities of both the forms in the original photographs and the artist’s deliberate cuts.

Installed together, these two variant bodies of work create visual refrains that smartly echo across the mediums. In the past few years, Shirreff has clearly evolved her approach to the point that managed complexity starts to feel effortless, and removal and reduction lead to intriguing interaction rather than empty minimalism. The new photographic works are among her best, driving the ideas behind collage and layering someplace fresh, and allowing combinations of image and space to interact with nested resonance.

Collector’s POV: The large photographic works in this show range in price from $36000 to $75000, based on size. Shirreff’s work has not yet entered the secondary markets with any regularity, so gallery retail remains the best option form those collectors interested in following up.

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