Leah Beeferman

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What is my work about?

I construct spaces of flatness and infinite depth, merging what is “real” (observations, photographs, and recordings) with a non-pictorial, imaginary space informed by quantum physics, cosmology, and the digital. I make abstract digital drawings, videos, sound pieces, and laser etchings; in each series, I construct a system of formal and conceptual “rules” which guide how the forms, images, and sounds interact. These rules are guided by concepts from theoretical science which have potential for formal and psychological interpretation, expanding them far beyond their scientific implications. The artworks elude physicality, hovering somewhere between screen, image, object, and viewer experience.

Artist Statement

I make abstract digital drawings, videos, sound pieces, and laser etchings, distinct processes linked by interconnected forms and ideas. These works contribute to an ongoing study of digital drawing which seeks to generate spaces of flatness and infinite depth. Common to all the work is my interest in merging a very “real” space (taken from my own observations, photographs, and recordings) with a non-pictorial, imaginary, and intangible one informed by quantum physics, cosmology, and the digital.

I am drawn to a theory which states that empty space is not empty and is, in fact, quite dense and active. “Emptiness” and “density” are formal, psychological, and scientific terms; they are paradoxical and provocative. For these reasons, they form the basis for my work — which uses theoretical science as a loose model for constructing abstract visual and sonic spaces. When I begin a new series of artworks, I develop a system of formal and conceptual “rules” which guide how the forms, images, or sounds making up these works interact with one another. These rules grow out of abstract interpretations I make from ideas or propositions in theoretical physics (such as the theory describing emptiness and density). The finished work, however, presents no concrete information; instead, it suggests spaces which hover on the edge of what we can experience and what we must imagine. By working digitally and making specific production and display decisions, my artworks elude physicality: they remain somewhere between screen, image, object, and viewer experience.

Physics interests me mainly because it presents a set of invisible rules which attempt to describe how the physical world behaves and evolves. I like particle physics and cosmology because they focus on phenomena at scales that humans cannot directly experience, yet which still claim to describe our natural reality, albeit on a sub-microscopic or ultra-macroscopic scale. How can this interpretive and psychological space — situated in-between something palpable (the natural world) and something abstractly systematized (scientific attempts to describe it) — be accessed, or recreated, by an artwork?

I came to the ideas behind my recent work in 2012 during a residency in Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Circle, where we spent 12 days sailing on a motor-powered schooner. We disembarked almost daily to spend time on land or on short zodiac boat rides to see, and listen to, glaciers and icebergs. In the months leading up to the trip, I had researched the Arctic, the cryosphere (ice systems on Earth), and the above-mentioned theory about empty space, and these questions of emptiness and density were constantly in my mind as we traveled. Not only were density relationships ever-present in the forms of icebergs floating in the ocean (ice is one of the only substances whose solid form is less dense than its liquid form, explaining why it floats in water), but the Arctic itself felt like a real-world manifestation of dense empty space. It is so still and so vast, and there is so little visible life: “empty,” by some standards. But, despite this, the icescape and landscape are highly charged in a way which is physically and emotionally intense and fully palpable. The experience of finding a real place that mirrored a theoretical abstraction was fascinating. Upon returning home, I began to develop new visual systems in response to that discovery: non-rectangular photographic images of the icy landscape intuitively combined with flat digital color and digitally-drawn gestural marks. I thought about “emptiness” and “density” in visual terms too, of course; they suggest form, or the lack thereof. These various models of engagement — the real world, abstract landscapes, floating ice, water, theoretical physics, emptiness, density, form, shape, solid color, blankness, digital color, and digital space — all guided the work in different ways. I’ve been lucky to further my research experiences during residencies in Finland and Iceland in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

In the Strong force and Density drawing digital prints (both ongoing series), I use my own digital photographs or scans of rocks, ice and water from the landscapes I’ve visited alongside digitally-drawn marks and flat digital color, forcing the “real” and the “imagined” onto the same plane. The Strong force pieces are Lightjet prints on glossy metallic paper, face-mounted to 1/4” plexiglass to accentuate their surfacelessness; I’ve printed the Density drawings as inkjets thus far, but I am currently exploring having them made directly on aluminum via a new dye sublimation process. The Supersolid videos are moving drawings which make use of similar landscape materials and gestural digital marks, animated to move almost imperceptibly slowly. They reconsider what “change” and “narrative” can mean, suggesting time on geological or cosmological scales. The pieces in the LFS series are laser-etched digital drawings on spray-painted sheets of plexiglass. In these works, drawn shapes — solid gestures — become transparent empty spaces, or blurry in-betweens, as the laser uses them as a guide for what to etch away.

My sound pieces — such as This place feels like a real place (made from field recordings I took in Svalbard) and Field variation (made from contact microphone recordings I made in science labs) — create tangible abstract aural spaces which, like the visual work, are constantly shifting. They are presented either in sound “screenings” to an audience in a gallery, or, in the future, as records or online experiences. Finally, EMPTY SPACE is a performance event which I have done three times in New York galleries. It brings information, abstraction, quantum physics, northern landscapes, video projection, and sound into a speculative and factual attempt to understand what a true description of pure, scientific “empty space” could be. The event has three parts: 10 minutes of silent, two-channel video; an 11-minute text that is projected, screen-by-screen, without sound; and a 10-minute sound piece, with no visuals. It is an interesting platform for presenting my research and interest in scientific language more thoroughly alongside abstractions, suggesting continuities and complexities among the different types of visual, textual, and sonic information.

EDUCATION
MFA Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, Virginia (2010)
BA Brown University Providence, Rhode Island (2004)

SELECTED EXHIBITIONS
2015
Rawson Projects, New York NY (solo exhibition, forthcoming)
Empty Space Fridman Gallery, New York NY (performance)
Singing Material Tyson, Cologne, Germany
Empty Space Klaus von Nichtssagend, New York NY (performance)
Timberrrr HORSEANDPONY, Berlin, Germany

2014
Empty Space Essex Flowers, New York NY (performance)
Sense Objects with Stephen Vitiello curated by Regine Basha, Fridman Gallery, New York, NY
Leah Beeferman: Field Positions / Rick Silva: Render Garden Ditch Projects, Springfield, OR
Magnetic North 1285 Avenue of the Americas Art Gallery, New York NY

2013
6<<<>>>6 curated by Rachel Steinberg, Interstate Projects, Brooklyn NY
C-H-A-M-B-E-R-S curated by Sara Ludy, The Wrong New Digital Art Biennale
The Order of Things curated by Jamillah James, NURTUREart, Brooklyn NY
Action! Moving Image Abstraction Soho (Beach) House, Miami FL
The Flat Files: Year One TSA, Brooklyn NY
Hypotheticals II Free Range Gallery, Perth, Australia
Beyond the Barrier Camera Club of NY, New York NY
In Search Of… TSA, Brooklyn NY
The Imperative of Teaching: Studio Pedagogy Bergen Community College, Paramus NJ

2012
1201.2280v1 Vox Populi Gallery, Philadelphia PA (solo exhibition)
Non-measurable Objects Hunt Gallery, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA (solo exhibition)
What Do You Believe In? curated by Amy Smith-Stewart, NY Photo Festival 2012, Brooklyn NY
Prune in the Sky Toves Galleri / Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark
Transforming Function Conrad New York, New York NY
In Search Of… Clough Hansen Gallery, Rhodes College, Memphis TN
In Search Of… Art and Design Gallery, University of Kansas, Lawrence KS

2011
LOST curated by Amy Smith-Stewart, Invisible-Exports, New York NY
The Spirit of the Signal Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, New York NY
Leah Beeferman/Pierre Le Hors PACS Gallery, Brooklyn NY
Lift off: Earthlings and the Great Beyond Paul Robeson Galleries, Rutgers University, Newark NJ
Exit Strategy White Box, New York NY
Matinee St. Cecilia’s Convent, Brooklyn NY
An Exchange with Sol LeWitt Cabinet project space/MassMOCA, Brooklyn NY/North Adams MA
The Wrong Miracle Galeria NoMINIMO, Guayaquil, Ecuador

2010
Error, Fate, Chance WORK Gallery, Brooklyn NY
Timed Travel Thomas Jefferson High School Planetarium, Richmond VA (performance)Journeys Into the Unknown Anderson Gallery, Richmond VA (solo exhibition)

2009
OPTIONS 2009 Biennial Conner Contemporary Art, Washington DC Decidedly Ambivalent Newton Art Center, Newton MA …for lovers Denise Bibro Fine Art, New York NY
There Goes the Neighborhood Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland OH SP Weather Station, part of Queens International 4 Queens Museum of Art, Queens NY

PRIZES/AWARDS
2014 Emergency Grant, Foundation for Contemporary Art

RESIDENCIES
Sirius Arts Center Residency, Cobh, Ireland (forthcoming, 2016)
SÍM Residency, Reykjavik, Iceland (2014)
Visiting Artist in Residence, AS220, Providence RI (2014)
Digital Painting Atelier Residency, Ontario College of Art & Design, Toronto, Canada (2014)
Kökarkultur Artist Residence, Kökar, Finland (2013)
The Arctic Circle, International Territory of Svalbard (2012)
Diapason Sound Art Gallery, Brooklyn NY (2012)
Experimental Sound Studio, Chicago IL (2012)
Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Residency, New York NY (2010-11)
Visiting scholar/artist at New York University’s Advanced Media Studio, New York NY (2010-11)

PUBLICATIONS
Empty Space online commission, NewHive.com (2015)
Sense Objects split 7” record with Stephen Vitiello, catalog for exhition at Fridman Gallery (2014)
Parallelograms co-creator/co-curator of Parallelograms, an ongoing online artist project (2010-present)

BIBLIOGRAPHY
“Leah Beeferman” by Lucas Blalock interview, bombmagazine.com (2015)
“Leah Beeferman” by Emily Gaynor interview, newhive.com (2015)
“Leah Beeferman: The States Project: New York” by Mark Dorf interview, Lenscratch.com (2015)
“Sense Objects” by Owen Duffy exhibition review, ArtPulse (Fall 2014)
“Here Are Things, And Here Is Their Order” by Paul D’Agostino exhibition review, The L Magazine (2013)
“Out of this World” by Ann Landi article, ARTNews (June 2012)
“Eclectic visuals and sound at Vox” by Chip Schwartz exhibition review, Knight Blog (2012)
“LOST on the Lower East Side exhibition review, Hyperallergic (2011)
“The Lookout: A Weekly Guide to Shows You Won’t Want to Miss” exhibition review, Art in America (2011