Kaz Oshiro and Molly Springfield may not know each other, but they both devote an inordinate amount of time to artworks that, on the surface, look rather ordinary. Their projects' deceptive nature, however, is the key to their appeal. His sculpture and her drawings evoke the curious relationships we forge with our stuff in a world of throwaways and eBay redistribution of the cast-off. Value is a taste-driven thing.
The pairing of these two artists at the adventurous Steven Wolf Fine Arts gallery offers a means to explore, from opposite ends of a personality spectrum, a similar impulse to re-create mundane, manufactured objects with the human hand. Oshiro -- born in Japan in the late '60s and based in LA, makes faux dorm fridges and audio equipment that are convincing relics from the life of a wannabe rocker. Springfield, who is in her late 20s and lives in Washington, DC, painstakingly renders versions of photocopied pages from books; her pieces have a direct line to the mind of a lit or art history grad student. More than 20 years after artists like Richard Prince used the camera to coolly claim ownership of other artists' work, the practice of handcrafted appropriation addresses a pervasive yearning to give our prefab, but very personal, laptops and iPods warmth and fuzz . . .
[In Oshiro's work,] the trickery is not visible, a strategy that introduces an existential sense of futility. All that time and effort, and for what? Springfield's monochromatic graphite drawings invoke the same question. They're actual-size renderings of murky copy-machine output: Call her a photocopy realist. The sheets of thick rag paper, with a subtly rippled texture that is one of the few signals that this is "art," are hung from the wall with an upscale version of office clips. The show includes 14 drawings, making it clear that hers is a committed practice that's dour and daft.
These works gain their power from the way Springfield lavishes attention on the tiny though often legible typefaces. You can read them if you're so inclined. The selections are quite conscious, although the artist has been known to nab a random subject from the copy center floor to shake things up. Astute readers will note a spread from Elements of Style("11. Don't explain too much"). The artist engages language as an aspect of conceptual art in the same way that, say, Eva Hesse did by making wall works that extended from the wall. In fact, one of Springfield's drawings, Hang Up (2005), includes an illustration of Hesse's similarly titled 1965-'66 piece. The younger artist's act is as much a gesture of hero worship as an act of self-conscious art referencing. The land of academia, after all, is very much about deliberation.
But Springfield also pays close attention to the gray areas of visual noise and distortion introduced by electronics, where there's no book and the copier has photographed itself. In these regions abstraction takes over. It's a gray area where the drawing becomes a transcendent, meditative site of ideas -- all the better that the artist may have found it in the Kinko's recycling bin.