Abstraction in the Public Sphere
Artist/theorist Karen Schiff will consider selected abstract paintings from the 20th and 21st centuries as responses to social conditions. Artists such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Yayoi Kusama, and Agnes Martin can be seen as offering visual reflections on world events, and as formulating new conceptual frameworks for making sense of our rapidly changing culture.
The lecture concludes with speculations on very recent phenomena in international politics and non-representational painting such as “zombie abstraction” and a linguistic ambiguity in political discourse, and suggests some political roles for abstract art.
Karen Schiff earned an MFA in Studio Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts / Tufts University in 2006, with Honors in Drawing; she also has studio training from the Rhode Island School of Design, the New York Studio School, and the Art Students League of New York. She was motivated to return to making art after seeing the work of Agnes Martin, during her doctoral studies in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, and Martin’s artwork, writings, and life story continue to be touchstones. She earned a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1998 and became an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities and Literature in an English department; her more recent research, teaching, and writing are all filtered through her renewed studio practice.
Karen’s artwork has appeared in Art Journal from the College Art Association and in many gallery and museum exhibitions: in “Art = Text = Art,” for instance, her work traveled with other selections from the Kramarsky collection of contemporary drawing to four museums in the U.S. and in Iceland (see artequalstext.com). Her most recent solo exhibition was “Broken Letters (After Agnes),” at First Things Gallery in New York City in 2017. Karen’s writing has been published in Art in America, Art in Print, and Art Journal, as well as online at Hyperallergic Weekend (New York) and Big, Red & Shiny (Boston).
Her award-winning artwork is archived in museum collections at Colby College, Brown University, and Yale University, corporate collections such as the MCS Collection of Contemporary Drawing (Portugal), and many private collections. Karen is based in New York City; this Spring she is living in Providence while teaching at RISD and the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts. Her website is www.karen-schiff