Elisabeth Kley: A Seat in the Boat of the Sun

Canada is pleased to present A Seat in the Boat of the Sun, Elisabeth Kley’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. Kley explores and expands themes she is known for—geometric and plant motifs borrowed from a wide range of sources including Wiener Werkstätte designs from the last century and ancient Egyptian designs. The show features six sculptures, most of which are placed directly on the gallery floor. The sculptures are surrounded by black and white paintings on unstretched fabric and on the wall, immersing the viewer in a world of pattern. The refined and meticulously chosen array of designs creates an updated fin de siècle scene full of rakish possibilities.

Most of the ceramics in A Seat in the Boat of the Sun were produced while she was on a residency in Guadalajara, and the pre-Columbian and modern art and architecture of Mexico can be felt in the works. The forms of the hand-built ceramics are modular blocks, some with dynamic semi-circular curves. They fit together like a stone wall or bars of musical notation. The bluish black and white painted patterns are both stand alone designs, easy to appreciate on their own, or parts of a whole, echoing or contrasting adornment in other pieces. The interplay between the patterns is elaborated on throughout the show with dark and light trading places, endlessly swapping foreground or background, at times resembling optical puzzles.

Kley produces numerous preparatory drawings which she references as she glazes her fired clay surfaces. The size of kilns she uses determines the size of each piece and by placing them together they become greater than the sum of their parts. The hand painted quality of the ceramics and the wall works is direct and unfussy; Kley allows drips and the quavers of her hand to remain. The rhythm and drive of the pieces is bracing, and one can sense Kley's excitement while discovering designs that are both intimate and part of an environment, enveloping her audience with an epoch-spanning appetite for visual pleasure.

Kley has painted an abstracted staircase and a high wall with a sliver of dark sky as the propositional setting for the exhibition, which she has conceived as a sunken garden at night. The wall painting both frames the banners and places us in an exotic clime for reverie and contemplation. Kley offers us the pleasure of strolling through an environment of beautiful and strange objects, alone or with friends, as we detect the scent of flowers in the air and the rumble of a distant ocean, reminding us of adventures past or ones yet to happen.

Elisabeth Kley (b. 1956, New York, NY) has had solo and two-person exhibitions at The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha; The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia; Canada, New York; Parts and Labor, Beacon, NY; University of the Arts, Philadelphia; South Willard, Los Angeles; Pierre Marie Giraud, Brussels; Gordon Robichaux, and Regina Rex, among others.

Kley’s work is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Her first solo museum exhibition, Minutes of Sand, at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, ran from March-August 2021 and is currently on view at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha through April 2023. A catalog for Minutes of Sand will be published in April 2023.

Her exhibitions have been reviewed and featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Artforum, Art in America, Artnews, New York Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, and more. She has also written extensively for publications including Artforum, Parkett, Art in America, Artnews, Artnet Magazine, Art & Auction, Bomb, Ursula Magazine and PAJ (A Journal of Performance and Art). A monograph on her work with essays by Paul P. and Edward Leffingwell was published jointly by Canada and Pre-Echo press in 2019.

Special thanks to Cerámica Suro and Peter Lane Studio for graciously sharing their facilities.