Haiku Review: Drew Shiflett by Peter Frank

By Peter Frank
The Huffington Post

October 5, 2012


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Drew Shiflett
Untitled #59, 2011
Watercolor, cheesecloth, handmade paper
44 ¾ x 52 ¾ x 2 ¼ inches



New York, New York. Drew Shiflett fabricates things that comfortably occupy what should be a very uncomfortable rubric.  Are they drawings? Collages? Sculptures? Paintings, even? Without truly hybridizing between any of these practices, Shiflett’s wall-hung paper pieces display the DNA of them all.  Hers is a truly new breed, perhaps most closely related to handmade-paperwork – which it is, but of a nature rather far removed from the cast heavy-fiber paper that defines that particular category. Despite the artist’s clearly work-intensive methods of assembly, the physical result of these methods is light and delicate and seemingly effortless, almost as if these objects had flaked off the crust of bread loaves during baking. (Their white-brown tonality abets this almost synesthetically gustatory metaphor.) Shiflett’s works also challenge notions of abjection: their contours may be irregular, even ragged, but betray just enough formal premeditation to secure those contours an irrefutable logic. Such logic grows out of the tight but not lockstep gridding Shiflett weaves as much upon as into the surface of her sheets, and as well out of the pervading baked coloration. The more radically Shiflett contours her work, in fact, the more deliberate they seem, often resembling the patched-together leaves of crumbled ancient writing under restoration; certain of her works beg to be read under a magnifying glass, although they yield no text. The gridding that dominates Shiflett’s pieces does suggest notation sooner than it does contemporary grid-based art (although, not surprisingly, Shiflett admits to taking inspiration from Agnes Martin). Most of all, though, with their gently raised surfaces and stuttering but indomitable rows of vertical scorings, Shiflett’s objects want to be objects, albeit dressed up as – or in drawing. (Lesley Heller, 54 Orchard St., NY; thru Oct. 14. www.lesleyheller.com)

-- Peter Frank