At their Chelsea gallery, BravinLee has a vitrine dedicated to the display of Book Arts. Works that address the topics of typography and linguistics are considered part of the Book Arts genre. Currently on display are recent prints by Karen Schiff. These works are created using alphabetic and numeric rubber stamps. The artist prints on various types of commercial stamp album graph paper in a very small scale grid.
“oOo” from 2015 is a type of tiling constructed out of zeros and capital letter O’s. The artist takes advantage of the two-fold rotational symmetry of these forms. By rotating the figures 90 degrees and overlapping the edges, Schiff has filled the rectangular plane with ellipses. This print is an exploration of the geometry of these two typographic elements.
“mmm…” made in 2014 is composed using only one type of rummer stamp, the lower case “m”. At first glance, the image appears to be a horizontal rows of vertical marks, but upon closer inspection you see the top curves of the m’s. What makes these rows of m’s interesting is the fact that the letters have no symmetry, but lined up appear to create a consistent pattern.
Schiff hand stamps each of these letters individually to form detailed images. The imperfections of the printing process create slight discrepancies in the patterns. This is an important part of Schiffs artistic process. By removing the letters and numbers from a traditional text format of works or calculations they lose their direct linguistic and numeric connotations, becoming abstract forms. This allows the viewer to explore the abstract shapes geometrically. We look at numbers and letters all day with out thinking mathematically about their shapes. In this his new series of prints Schiff has invited us to look at numbers and letters in a different way.