FROM KOLAJ 33
Four Decades of Lesley Schiff’s Photocopy Collage
Lesley Schiff uses simple photocopy technology and found objects to make profoundly emotional work. Ghostly prints made with 1980s office machines anticipate our present day society, immersed in consumerism and tech culture. Suspended between life and death, trapped in time like a feather in amber, Schiff’s 1981 series “Seasons” uses photocopy technology to preserve everyday objects with light. This portfolio of twenty-four Xerox prints is typical printer paper size. Each of the prints shows a unique color image made by collaging two-dimensional and three-dimensional props on the scanner bed.
Katrina Slavik was part of Kolaj Institute’s Curating Collage Workshop that took place in Fall 2020. During that workshop, artists curated collage from the collection of the Fleming Museum of Art at the University of Vermont. Slavik got in touch with Schiff to speak to her about the 1981 series “Seasons” and her life and work as an artist since then. The full interview appears in Kolaj 33.
Schiff was one of the first artists to pioneer photocopier artwork. At first, she came up against some technical problems. In my research, I noticed that some prints were slightly different from one another. After talking with the artist, it turns out that the differences aren’t intentional. Xerox’s color copying at the time was, in Schiff’s own words, “primitive technology”. Sometimes the machine in the print shop would malfunction. Other times, she had to reprint and this caused the slight variations.
“Seasons” is deeply rooted in American culture. The bright printer-ink color tones refer to Pop art pioneers like Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. In the 80s, technology was just becoming a vital part of everyday life. The prints are made in thirty seconds with the push of a button. The work idolizes technology and instant gratification. To make the prints, Schiff must strike a balance between soulless automation and human decision making. The results are startlingly emotional and human.
Lesley Schiff holds a BFA in Painting from The Art Institute of Chicago. Schiff has lectured and conducted seminars at The Art Institute of Chicago, Syracuse University, The School of Visual Arts, Southern Methodist University, and the International Center of Photography, among others. Since 1974, her work has been shown widely in the US and Europe, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2018) and The Whitney Museum of American Art (2017). Learn more at www.lesleyschiff.com.
Katrina Slavik holds a BFA in Painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Slavik has shown her work in group exhibitions in and around New York City. Her solo exhibition, “Eternal Pigeons”, was at the Wild Bird Fund Window Gallery in New York City in 2020. As a curator, Slavik has curated exhibitions at Asya Geisberg Gallery and Field Projects Gallery, both in New York City. Slavik also took part in Kolaj’s Curating Collage Workshop, October-November 2020. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, the artist lives and works in Queens, New York. Learn more at www.katrinaslavik.com.
About the Curating Collage Workshop
The Curating Collage Workshop was a four-week, virtual/online workshop held in Fall 2020 with the University of Vermont’s Fleming Museum of Art. The Workshop trained the twenty-one participating artists as curators. The group explored the fundamentals of curating, how to create critical context for collage, and various strategies for presenting collage to an audience. They also investigated art writing; gallery and museum issues; documenting artist practice; and working with art professionals. Each artist curated a collage from the collection of the University of Vermont’s Fleming Museum of Art. They also curated each other’s work to produce a statement of practice, biography and critical context for a body of work, which was developed into a proposal for an exhibition or book. To learn about upcoming workshops from Kolaj Institute, sign-up to the mailing list.