Sifting through recycled magazines for materials to create her elaborate cut paper constructions is a process Kirsten Kindler calls “hunting and gathering.” The Richmond-based artist collects and collates images into thematic groupings: cars, architectural details, electronic equipment, stairways and other signifiers of acquired domesticity. From these miniature facsimiles of luxury, Kirsten Kindler builds intricate structures that serve as delicately fraught monuments to material culture.
Carefully excised from the magazines in which they were found, the accumulated reproductions seem vulnerably thin on their own, their negative spaces extracted with a surgeon’s precision. Likewise, their connections to one another appear impossibly fragile, although the narrow contact points are made invisibly strong through the use of adhesive film. That film, which unifies the individual items into a whole, is meticulously hand-cut to allow air to flow through the large, lacelike constructions. Kirsten Kindler’s time intensive pieces are then hung in corners of rooms or hovering off the wall, unprotected by frames. Intricate cast shadows move as you approach the designs for a closer look, the slightest disturbance in the air registering on the wall, their inherent fragility whispering a reminder of the emptiness of ‘things.’
Kirsten Kindler constructs an airy architecture of contradiction. Stairwells lead into other stairwells, open-air labyrinths of décor. Equipment is piled to the point of dysfunction, amassed signifiers of wealth amounting to decorative chattel. Gleaming metal, wood and stone surfaces are all flattened through the photographic reproductions – forming veneers of veneers, surfaces that invite a different sort of reflection.
Despite the accumulation of mismatched items, there is a sense of order and unity in Kindler’s work. What should feel cluttered or claustrophobic instead comes off as elegant and restrained. Crisply cut and often arranged in a way that approximates symmetry, the parts add up to much more than the whole.
From a distance, the overall effect is that of an ornamental Rorschach. It is the very openness of Kirsten Kindler’s work that invites psychoanalytical readings. They are as much about absence as presence, recalling Lacan’s statement that “the signifier is a unit in its very uniqueness, being by nature symbol only of an absence.” The artist creates work that references ideas of dematerialization while maintaining solid footing in studio practice, an impressive contradiction.
Although comprised of manmade objects, Kirsten Kindler’s work has an undeniably organic quality. Their delicate arrangement calls to mind the preciousness of a bird’s nest. Like the aesthetic-minded Bower Bird, the artist gathers our discarded materials, categorizes them and weaves them into something beautiful. Her ‘hunting and gathering’ is the start of a transformative process that turns dated, disposable goods into timeless sites for thoughtful reflection.