September 9, 2017 - The Cleveland Museum of Art - Scott Olson / Jerry Birchfield: Stagger When Seeing Visions / Liz Roberts and Henry Ross: Death Knell
September 9, 2017

The Cleveland Museum of Art

Left: Scott Olson, Untitled, 2017. Oil on panel, 80 x 52.1 cm. Right: Jerry Birchfield, Pale 5, 2017. Silver gelatin print and plaster, 50.8 x 8 x 8.8 cm.


Scott Olson
Jerry Birchfield: Stagger When Seeing Visions
Liz Roberts and Henry Ross: Death Knell
September 1–December 10, 2017

Transformer Station
1460 West 29th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
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Scott Olson
Scott Olson’s abstract paintings conceal the deliberate decisions and elaborate processes used in their making. By employing a broad range of techniques and materials, Olson traces the history of painting as far back as the early Renaissance. At the same time, through subtle shifts and the gradual introduction of new methods and concepts, his small-scale paintings do nothing less than re-examine some of the medium’s long-established boundaries.

In early Italian Renaissance painting, marble dust was combined with a glue binder and put down on a wooden panel that was going to be painted or gold leafed. I’ve adopted that recipe and studied the science and history behind it. I didn’t invent this gesso; there are many existing recipes and methods for using it. So I explored those and started to prepare panels this way. And then the possibilities opened up. I discovered right away that this surface could be painted with oil, yet appear like watercolor on paper. Or by rubbing pigment and wax into the surface I could elevate the ground to become a critical part of the work itself.

"Some of the most recent works involve metal leaf applied to a clay ground called bole, which is the basic process of gilding. I’m using the marble dust surface here, too, on which the clay is applied and then finally the metal leaf. Historically, egg tempera was painted over leaf in order to scratch away details in fabric or for lettering.  

"There is so much potential in working with these additional materials and techniques that also relate to aleatory, chance combinations of things. I can cut away and expose previous layers, carve into the bole, scrape away the leaf, and apply other layers on top. I’m always trying to incorporate variation into my work and process, like a kind of percussive pattern or polyrhythm that creates connections and commonalities but also introduces difference.”
—Scott Olson

Jerry Birchfield: Stagger When Seeing Visions
Jerry Birchfield’s practice revolves around the question of how images emulate or subvert the sources from which they stem. Through complex photographic and sculptural processes, his works go through various stages of transformation, from surrogate to self-reference. The making of meaning is synonymous with the search for the beginning and the end.

“Debris, leftovers, the aftermath of other efforts, materials only partially identifiable—like the scene after an accident or disaster—only too clean for that, too controlled. And not the kind of unidentifiable that happens in real life after the car crash or flood, not the kind with real loved ones and family, this is the kind that happens on a primetime drama—the kind where nothing graphic is ever shown or seen, nothing vulgar, and if it is, it is theatrical enough that we know it isn’t real, it couldn’t be, not like this. It is too clean because it is contained. We can see its edges, we can see where it ends.

"This un-identification deals in senses, or things already known. Specificity without... It doesn’t matter that we don’t have more, that we don’t know. Broken pieces of wood and dust and dirt don’t have much more to offer anyway. Here, they are the filler, the stand-in, and the placeholder. They are the articulation of their representation—an acknowledgment of what they do now rather than what they used to be. To know more about their past is pointless and besides this point.”
—Jerry Birchfield

Death Knell
A collaborative performance and installation by Liz Roberts and Henry Ross, Death Knell highlights the interplay of process and product by dismantling an automobile and recording the procedure with 100 contact microphones. Inspired by European industrial music of the 1980s, music created in response to the impending collapse of Eastern Bloc socialism, the resulting audio piece will be available as an editioned work on cassette, as well as online. The vehicle remains will be on-site throughout the exhibitions.

“The death knell of American industrialism manifests and mirrors its legacy: starting with a bang and gradually fading to nothing. Destruction displays the reversal of thousands of years of progress, a destruction that can be methodical, meditative, or aggressive. Cars are explicitly bound to their relationship with organized labor: their creation from the bottom and ubiquitous use despite their credit to society’s higher strata. The vehicle’s make and model are inconsequential because all are complicit in decline through use—its significance contained in the reversal of its creation rather than the car itself.

"What is the potential of art to foster change in our social and urban environment? No future, no potential? An audio instruction manual for insurrection. The audio ends without sound, representing an opening wherein the people have the tools to create. The people possess the potential to alter context from within. The parts are there, they can be assembled differently.”
—Liz Roberts and Henry Ross

Scott Olson, born 1976, lives and works in Kent, OH. His work has been shown at galleries in New York, Milan, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Stockholm, and Berlin as well as the Österreichisches Museum für angewandte Kunst (Vienna), White Flag Projects (St. Louis), Museum of Contemporary Art (Cleveland), and the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis) among other venues. The Cleveland Museum of Art is presenting Olson’s first institutional solo exhibition.

Jerry Birchfield, born 1985, lives and works in Cleveland, OH. He holds a MFA from Cornell University (2014). In Cleveland, Birchfield has exhibited at SPACES Gallery, Zygote Press, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the sunroom, and The Cleveland Foundation as well as the Print Center in Philadelphia. Stagger When Seeing Visions is Birchfield’s first institutional solo exhibition.

Liz Roberts is an artist and a visiting full-time faculty at the Columbus College of Art & Design. Henry Ross is a student-artist, writer, and musician. Both are located in Columbus, OH, and are part of MINT Collective.

The Cleveland Museum of Art
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Death Knell
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