Erin Trefry: art works ‘hard-wired’ with intimacy

Visual arts

In a Los Angeles gallery season just crammed with new shows, something caught my eye in the announcement of artist Erin Trefry‘s solo exhibition at Lowell Ryan Projects, If The Moon Turns Green. I felt drawn to the images of Trefry’s paintings; in particular, her assemblage and sculptures spoke to me, I realized, on a subconscious level. I was unsurprised to learn that this tidy, but obsessive creativity was the work of a woman. Further to that information was learning that Trefry sources materials from locuses of high emotion. Along with oil paint and ceramics, she selects and arranges sartorial objects such as clothing, shoes, and handbags — culled from her family home.

fleeting gestural elements and ways of the warrior, 2018
Glazed stoneware, paint, shoes, and cloth on pleather
29h x 21 1/2w x 3d inches

You cannot create a more personal ouevre than that. It’s DNA art. Trefry recycled her father’s sweatshirt, mother’s purse handles, grandmother’s shoes, and drawer pulls. Then, another interesting fillip, I learned that the artist holds as an important inspiration the choreographer Pina Bausch, as in this work below. Is there a dance element that catches the eye of this dance critic?

as though a certain knowledge returns (after Pina Bausch), 2019
Glazed stoneware, wicker purse handles, resin purse handles, fabric, zip ties
27h x 20w x 10 1/2d inches

Trefry’s marvelous hanging sculptures are symmetrical crustacean-like forms that look flayed or dissected, mask-like or pelvic. About the size of an armored breastplate, each work has a spine. Some of the assemblages sit on panels of stretched fabric; some hang directly on the wall. Some works are bound with rope or have braided lengths falling from their surfaces. Indicating the human form, they reference the body’s interior and exterior with skin and bone concealed and strategically revealed.

An array of materials from synthetic to earthly is an elemental aspect of her process. She uses clay alongside “pleather’ (vegan leather, I learned) and denim to perform a kind of alchemy, transforming earth, air, fire and water into artworks with poetic meaning.

impermanent time that weeps, 2018,
Stoneware, purse handles, and leather on denim, 106h x 50w x 4d inches

In one work, Impermanent time that weeps, 2018, a piece of green leather rests on a tall panel of dark denim. At the center, two circular wicker handles frame a dark flowering ceramic form. The piece feels devotional and shamanistic—utilizing charged materials in combinations to form something new and universal. The artist uses imagery of our bodies, and objects from our lives to address our own humanity and mortality. “Remains” are transmuted into new life.

This is a beautiful show in the new gallery row on West Adams Boulevard. Recommended.

If The Moon Turns Green | Lowell Ryan Projects | thru Oct 12

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