Karen Schiff is an artist and wordsmith based in New York; she has always been a reader as well as a visual artist. Her drawings, paintings, installations, and performances combine these pursuits by wondering about our conceptual frameworks for linguistic and physical experience.
For “Scribing the Void,” Schiff is showing works on paper from 2014 through the present. In single lines of blank “writing,” her forms suggest a curious union between a snake and some leaning planks from a Serra sculpture. In other drawings these shapes form irregular grids, which Schiff associates with fields of language. (Texts used to be made from rectangular lead “sorts” of individual letters, compressed into metal frames for letterpress printing, but our experience of immersion in language is not so tight or regularly angled.) Schiff’s most recent drawings show these fields getting more irregular, and more spatially confounding. She likes to think about critic Jan Verwoert’s idea that the writer is immersed in language like a cow stands cooling in a pond; she also stays aware of a film on visualizing the fourth dimension which she first saw in 1985.
In addition to this exhibition at ODETTA (in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn), Schiff’s work has been shown at galleries such as BravinLee Programs and Danese Gallery, both in New York City, and Fred Giampietro Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut. Her artwork (and writing) was part of “Art = Text = Art” at museums including the Zimmerli Museum of Art at Rutgers University and the Hafnarborg Art Museum in Iceland. Schiff has also created online projects for the College Art Association’s Art Journal, such as “Counter to Type,” an invited artist’s project that included drawings that play with the journal’s page layouts, an essay, and an online video.
Schiff is a Lecturer in Graduate Studies at the Rhode Island School of Design. She holds an M.F.A. in Studio Art (School of the Museum of Fine Arts / Boston, 2006), and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory (University of Pennsylvania, 1998).
Recently she has published in Art in America and Hyperallergic Weekend, as well as for the blog she co-edits with an artist she met at a Yaddo studio residency, Wallscrawler. Her writings tend toward issues of art and language, artist Agnes Martin, and complexities of identity.
Her artworks are held in public, private, and corporate collections, such as the Kramarsky Collection (NYC), the Colby College Museum of Art (Maine), and the MCS Collection of Contemporary Drawing (Portugal).