Catalogue essay by Alexander Dumbadze for Simple, Dumb Objects, a three-person exhibition with Dean Kessmann and Martin Brief
Martin Brief, Dean Kessmann, and Molly Springfield address the connotational power of written language. . . .
As Brief and Kessmann delve into structural elements constituting the transmission of written language, Molly Springfield actually recreates specific texts via drawing. Her precise, pencil on paper renderings have the mysterious qualities of a Vija Celmins seascape, where everything is referential yet there is no context in which to understand the image. Indeed, in Springfield’s pictures, books sit alone, devoid of any situational space. She selects her subject matter from iconic art historical and philosophical texts like Hal Foster’s The Return of the Real and Plato’s Phaedrus. These books seem to be hers as they are marked up with marginalia. This personalizes her depictions further, giving the viewer a brief glimpse at her tastes and predilections. However, something is off. The drawings’ detachment is such that these books no longer seem real—as if the images were haunted. Springfield’s representations estrange these texts from any associative connotations. It is as if she deflates them of their intellectual power and instead turns them into simple, dumb objects.
Brief, Kessmann, and Springfield use absurdity and personal experience to make perceptive comments about the larger world in which we live. There are clear links to Conceptualists' traditions, yet the formal techniques they employ not only offer a personalized update on the past, but also give sway to the power of images. These are smart, seductive works that give the viewer the sense that we live in an odd, unsettling, but still visually engaging world.