Elizabeth Kendall was taught to sew by her grandmother. Having learned the techniques of the seamstress – altering shapes with stitching, basting and appliqué, layering and texturing of fabrics, the fine detail of the decorative fasteners – its influence has found its way into her sculptures on more than one occasion.
Her first fabric-inspired pieces were functional cups that she hand-built with thin porcelain slabs, making the clay mimic the folds and sags of cloth. In her previous exhibition at Cross Mackenzie, Kendall filled the window with hundreds of bottomless cup units, stacked to the ceiling to create a lace-like, transparent curtain into the gallery.
In her newest series, “Button Boxes,” opening June 18th, button-like disks jump out from the walls into the snug gallery space. Protruding from steel rods attached to the walls, the installation gives the impression that the gallery has erupted in a Gustav Klimt-esque flower patch. It is a show that begs to be experienced, felt, played with, and thoroughly enjoyed. Once inside, it begins to take on the feeling a three dimensional pixilated image in black and white, or an inverted pincushion, the rods poking out from both sides of the room.
It is increasingly rare for an artist to invite the viewer to participate in their work in the way that Kendall does in “Button Boxes.” There is a permeating visual obscurity and irony that more and more distances the art (and the artist) from the public – in an attempt to defy criticism, or merely in fits naïve egotism and self-imposed exile, it is difficult to say. But Kendall’s playful show is inviting, eager to be discussed, asking the audience their opinion. One is tempted to pick the “buttons” off the wall, take them home, and put them in a vase. Or just smile brightly and go on about your day.
For more information contact the Cross Mackenzie Gallery, 1054 31st St., or go to www.crossmackenzie.com.