New Yorker review by Johanna Fateman
Brooklyn Rail review by Barbara MacAdam
......Kley welcomes us into a grand night garden created by vertical painted black lines and gestures on white ground painted directly onto the gallery walls, generating a variety of perspectives. The illusion of steps rising up the walls to a band of black across the top frames the scene, holding it in place and evoking the night sky, or the threat of an abyss......Music, seductive motion, and the strange affect in Kley’s painted curves and curlicues cause her forms to dance gracefully, but then twist and pause. Inspired by the great Russian theater designer Léon Bakst, whose erudite costumes for Serge Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes traversed history in their references even as they reveled in its exoticism, Kley similarly mixes the visual and performing arts in this night garden.......
eTOKI article by Maiko Kikuchi
Oh! What is that?
She looks like a plump, cheerful old lady, and the dress she wears is monochrome and super stylish! The jar with such an appearance was emitting an aura, so I approached it.
This work was exhibited by a gallery in New York called Canada, and was invited to the same booth by Tomio Koyama Gallery in Tokyo. The gallerist and the artist, Elisabeth Kley, who created this pot, were also there to talk with us.
Elisabeth says that she has been mainly producing paintings, but she is also developing three-dimensional objects such as pots. This stylish pattern told me that she combined the motifs of "architecture" she saw in various places. When you say so, you can see something like the beam part of the building. It seems that the architecture of London with Egyptian taste is also mixed, so it has a unique exoticism.
Her paintings were on special display in the center of the art fair!
History repeats but is reinvented in bold color textiles through the lens of sculptor Elisabeth Kley whose graphic signature is black and white.
by Elaine Markoutsas
Minutes of Sand reviewed in Brooklyn Rail
Elisabeth Kley’s first solo museum exhibition reminds me of the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona. Much of the museum is a wonderland of intimate spaces: the disembodied frescoed interiors of myriad early medieval chapels. In some traditions, depictions of paradise take the form of zones of rich alternating bands of bright color and eternally repeated patterns, and Kley has created a space like this, albeit temporarily. In her installation of black and white large-scale geometric pottery, floor panels, and three color screen-printed wall hangings, Edouard Benedictus Lotus, X’s and Stripes, and After Bakst (all 2020), Kley imagines heaven, or at least an alternate realm, not as an aery cloud-filled firmament, but of geometric perfection and the comforting repetition of vegetal forms, rolling waves, and architectural detail.....
The Frieze Library: Volume Three
March Avery and Elisabeth Kley at Parts and Labor
Simplified forms, tactile surfaces, and themes of interiority bring together Parts and Labor’s current exhibition, March Avery and Elisabeth Kley.
As is the case with every show at Parts and Labor, two artists are presented in conversation with one another in order to consider common “impulses and inclinations.” At first glance, the artists seem cut from the same cloth, combining stillness with a playful asymmetry, emphasizing the handmade quality of each medium. However, the more time you spend in the exhibition, the more each artist brings out elements in the other that may otherwise be overlooked.....
Whitney acquisition of fountain
Artist to Watch
Interview with Nicole Bray of Mercer Contemporary
Figure/Ground interview with Suzanne Unrein
artforum Johanna Fateman's top ten of 2020
Johanna Fateman’s Top 10 of 2020 in the Dec issue of Artforum: Elisabeth Kley and Tabboo!’s ‘Garden' Gordon Robichaux, New York
“The friends’ collaborative installation ‘Garden’ was literally Edenic. (Perhaps it’s no coincidence the show dates from the halcyon days of late 2019.) Kley’s roughly rendered black-and-white ceramics, architectural murals, and functional fountains offset Tabboo!’s graceful, botanical, and glorious ultra-saturated bird paintings, transforming this reliably superb young gallery into an oasis.”
Lecture at 92nd Street Y
Elisabeth Kley: Greece, Egypt, Byzantium, Persia, Weiner Werkstatte and More
An OnDemand Online Lecture
Oct 21, 2020
Elisabeth Kley discusses her work and historical sources and influence.
New York Times review by Roberta Smith
Oct. 30, 2019
Updated 5:44 p.m. ET
Elisabeth Kley and Tabboo!
Through Nov. 10. Gordon Robichaux, 41 Union Square West, Manhattan; 646-678-5532, gordonrobichaux.com.
In the 1970s and early ’80s, a fledgling art movement called Pattern and Decoration arose, thanks to the work of artists like Miriam Schapiro, Kim MacConnel, Robert Kushner and Faith Ringgold. And then it faded — overshadowed by the onslaught of American and European Neo-Expressionist painting. But P&D, as it was called, a reaction to the austerities of Minimalism and the limits of high art, never really went away. Most of the artists kept working, and the questions they raised about decoration, craft, function and (even) beauty — and the frequently pejorative connotations of those words — hung around. These issues also mutated in the work of artists as various as Jean Lowe (who is married to Mr. MacConnel), Philip Taaffe, Rudolf Stingel and Laurel Sparks.
The exhibition “With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972-1985,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, may facilitate a reassessment of P&D, the original phenomenon, as well as its outliers and its continuing influence. Art lovers in New York, however, can savor some sense of the movement’s vitality in “Garden,” a site-specific installation of paintings, drawings, ceramic vessels and usable objects at Gordon Robichaux by the artists Elisabeth Kley and Tabboo! (less well known by his given name, Stephen Tashjian), who have been friends and collaborators for around 15 years. Early on, their joint endeavors included set designs and props for Tabboo!’s stage productions and videos. Ms. Kley also photographed his impromptu performances, using the images as sources for drawings.
With “Garden,” the two achieve a dazzling parity, transforming Gordon Robichaux into an ostentatiously low-tech art menagerie inspired by the one that Tabboo! maintains in his East Village studio. Their efforts create a dense environment of plants, birds, interiors and fountains that together conjure Persian courts, Roman wall paintings, the Wiener Werkstätte and much more. The fountains are real, made in glazed terra cotta by Ms. Kley. So are the stools and planters, featuring mostly her savvy black-and-white patterns — motifs that she has also transferred to the walls of one room.
Tabboo!, an incredibly talented if undervalued painter, has added colorful tropical scenes and abstract patterns to the walls of a second room. Paintings on canvas by both artists recur throughout the installation. Tabboo!’s drawings of imaginary plants imaginatively named set the whole show slightly on edge, highlighting the sharp contemporaneity of the artists’ sense of touch and pattern and their quotations of design. It’s always a good day when the so-called decorative takes no prisoners.
New York Magazine 10 Best Shows of 2019 by Jerry Saltz
This collaboration between ceramicist and painter Elisabeth Kley and painter, designer, and legendary drag queen Tabboo! (a.k.a. Stephen Tashjian) was a garden of optical and material delights.
New Yorker review by Johanna Fateman
Joey Laurenti collection in Architectural Digest
work featured in Architectural Digest article on Joey Laurenti collection
Unbeknownst to much of the art world, ceramicist and painter Elisabeth Kley and downtown drag star and artist Tabboo! have been friends and collaborators for more than a decade. The two teamed up for a show at Gordon Robichaux this fall and Kley offers an exclusive print for the latest Cultured Commission.
“I spend hours in museums obsessively photographing anything I might use. When I get back to work after an epic trip—like the one I took last year to Rome and Naples—I begin by making drawings from the photos that catch my eye and then move the motifs into ceramics and wall paintings. I’ve found inspiration in sources including Coptic and Islamic textiles, Fortuny and Wiener Werkstätte design and South Pacific tapa cloth. Right now, I’m concentrating on Greece and Rome, mixed in with ancient Egypt. Men with Grapes is based on an image of a grape arbor on the shoulder of a vessel in the National Etruscan Museum in Rome. I’ll be painting a whole room for my two-person show with Tabboo! at Gordon Robichaux this fall—maybe I will put a similar border of grapes and leaves up near the ceiling. Last spring I saw a wonderful show about the influence of antiquity on Léon Bakst and the Ballet Russes. I like to think I’m contributing to that lineage.” —Elisabeth Kley
Elisabeth Kley’s Cultured Commission is available for purchase on 1stdibs.
Two Artists Invite You to Bask in Their Garden:
Garden is a sustained mind-meld between two artists’ aesthetic sensibilities, one clearly born from a long friendship grounded in loving, making, and sharing art over the course of 15 years.
by Harry Tafoya
Lecture at Ceramics department, Cranbrook, March 13, 2019
20 Years of CANADA
For this year’s edition of Independent New York, CANADA will be presenting the work of Elisabeth Kley, a relatively recent addition to the gallery roster: her first exhibition at CANADA, “Ozymandias,” was held in 2016; it was also the gallery’s debut in its current home. Writing about the show in ARTnews, critic Barbara MacAdam described Kley’s works —a series of black-and-white ceramic vessels and drawings inspired by Islamic, Byzantine, and Asian ornamental patterning—as “steadfastly exotic, sensuous in [their] tantalizing imperfection, decorative, and somehow subversive.” The forthcoming presentation at Independent will include a wall drawing and selection of ceramics, all heavily patterned; the effect, Grauer says, “will be like walking into her studio and getting a 360-degree panorama of her world.”
The Don't Misses at Independent and NADA
Deep Color Podcast Interview
Elisabeth Kley makes ceramic sculpture that often takes on the form of a vessel, ornate peacocks or elaborate birdcages. Elisabeth talks about using historical decorative art as a model for her own work, color palette as a subversive tool, drag performance, exhibiting her work at Canada Gallery (NYC) and Pierre Marie Giraud (Brussels), and making art as a way to process emotion and experience.
These 20 Contemporary Artists Are Shaping the Future of Ceramics
Work featured in Artsy Magazine, February 2017
The Ceramic Artists You Need to Know Now
Work featured in Architectural Digest, January 2017
Little Star Gallery, May 13, 2016 (curated by Zach Fischman)
"Elisabeth Kley (b. New York, NY) works most often in clay, which she uses to make pots, cylinders, vessels, bird cages, fountains, and peacocks. Her forms are decorative, a descriptor which most artists will strain to avoid, but Kley approaches the concept with an unfussy energy, reinvigorating the category. Her pots are glazed and stained in black and white with hand drawn patterns, many of which seem to come directly from a wide set of ornamental sources: Aubrey Beardsley drawings, William Morris patterns, Japanese textiles, even Egyptian hieroglyphs. Kley often shows her vessels in conjunction with small prints of imagined pots and large wall paintings of Baroque patterns, hand drawn in black paint, which appear decidedly sinister. Such cohesive presentations call together a vortex of temporal and narrative associations; walking through an installation of Kley’s work, one might recall the atmosphere of a Victorian opium den, or the funereal quality of a newly excavated Egyptian reliquary."
Review Panel February 2016
Ozymandius at Canada discussed by Roberta Smith, Alexi Worth, Siri Hustvedt and David Cohen at the Brooklyn Public Library
ARTnews review of Ozymandias by Barbara MacAdam
"Steadfastly exotic, sensuous in its tantalizing imperfection, decorative, and somehow subversive, Elisabeth Kley’s work entices us into the mysteries of the past, the cinema, theater, opium dens, and harems. It does all of that through the arrangement of and repetition of slightly irregularly shaped ceramic vases embellished with traditional-looking Islamic patterns in black on white or the reverse….."
Ozymandias reviewed in Brooklyn Rail by Will Corwin
"Elisabeth Kley’s exhibition Ozymandias at the new Canada Gallery space, presents ten ceramic works; they are urns, bottles, and containers, and all the pieces are habitations of one sort or another. Aeschylus laments the dead Greek warriors futilely besieging Troy in Agamemnon with a description of their interment: “packing smooth the urns with ashes that once were men.” In Kley’s case as well, three of the smaller vessels, Flask with Eyes (2015), Flask with Axes (2015), and Flask with Flags (2015), were inspired by the purpose of holding the ashes of a dear friend, the artist Kathleen White, and thus are both a final resting place and a surrogate body created anew by the artist. Besides that melancholy purpose, ceramic vessels have always been enigmatic objects. Perhaps because of their obvious use value they take on a heightened meaning when they became purely ceremonial—almost sacrificial. These pieces are trophies, portraits, and mnemonics in the most literal sense...……"
Ozymandius reviewed in Live Mag by Ilka Scobie
The famous sonnet Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley, reflects on a monumental sculpture’s eventual ruin and collapse. Elisabeth Kley’s exhibition appropriated the title to likewise challenge time, while exploring such diverse concepts as individuality, transience and tradition.
Venetian opulence permeated the evocative installation of ceramic vessels, works on paper and two sweeping floor-to-ceiling panels. Classic motifs mined from Chinese calligraphy, Japanese design and Islamic ornamentation are reconfigured with fresh vision and relevance.
Byzantine decorative patterns, Matisse’s textile depictions, and the bold style of Vienna’s Weiner Werkstaäte also come to mind. A decidedly urbane aesthetic unites the diverse mediums and epochs…….
Gallery Chronicle by James Panero for New Criterion
"Meanwhile, in Canada’s second gallery, Elisabeth Kley presents striking black-and-white ceramics that appear pulled up from an unknown deep. Working with “homemade underglazes, with wax resist and sgraffito,” Kley impresses rough designs of unknown ethnographic origin onto her hand-made vessels of flasks and lobed bottles. Abstract trees, crosses, seraphim, eyes, tulips, leaves, axes, and flags decorate these objects in matte black-and-white, and, on the reverse, white-on-black. Prints and wall-painting round out the monochrome space, contrasting with Bradford’s colors next door, with the earthenware objects arranged symmetrically on pedestals in museum formation. In the art world, we are in a ceramic moment. Kley’s clay looks to the future by unearthing the forgotten past."
video interview on Gorky's Granddaughter 5/1/15
video interview by Zachary Keaton and Christopher Joy on Gorky's Granddaughter website
Clocktower interview 1/26/15
After a chance meeting at Joyce Pensato’s outrageous birthday dinner, Will Corwin took one look at Tomorrow’s Man 2 by Jack Pierson and immediately asked Elisabeth Kley (whose work is featured in the book) to come to Clocktower Radio and discuss her ceramic sculpture. Elisabeth gets technical about the practical considerations of creating large scale pieces and also talks about her inspirations. Her work appeared in the summer of 2014 in Anthropocene at Canada Gallery, and her drawings were on view in the Autumn 2014 group drawing show, Prophetic Diagrams II at Cheymore Gallery (curated by Corwin). Elisabeth also waxes poetic about her love for transvestite performance artists and the vaunted name of Everett Quinton comes up for a second time in recent memory!
unpublished review of translucent threads of dawn by Doug McClemont
For this two-person exhibition the gallery juxtaposed two distinct bodies of work to reveal a layered and bittersweet dialogue between them. Artist and writer Kley contributed 4 glazed ceramic cage sculptures as well as a large, decorous earthenware vessel. Kley’s colorful glazes were applied only on the outside edges of the each cage, and the brick-colored, clay was left untouched on the insides, its cracks and underbelly on full view. The works were simultaneously showy and humble. Artifice was an essential part of each sculpture’s essence, like theatrical props meant to viewed by the audience from a distinct vantage point. Ventur contributed a suite of C-print portraits of Mario Montez taken near the end of his life. Montez, in addition to acting in 1960s film by Jack Smith, was the Warhol “Superstar” female impersonator who preened and posed and languorously ate a banana on film for the pop artist. For Ventur’s compassionate lens, Montez is shown posing in the guises of some of his notable leading ladies in favorite looks from a blond-wigged, stately gloved lady in a mother-of-the-bride dress to an ebony-haired Spanish lady with a red fan lying next to a pool. In each image his careful but rudimentary makeup is worn like an old habit, and the actress inside is shown reliving past glory. Seen together, the suclptures and photographs take on a rich poignancy and evince thoughts of pride and decline. Ventur understands the power of his subject’s all-too-human and indefatigable need to looked at and admired. Perhaps Kley’s empty cages were never meant to contain songbirds, and the beautiful ceramic vessel in the center of the gallery, Large White Three Part Lotus Bottle (2013), took on the possible role of a reliquary or urn for youth and artistry of all kinds.
translucent threads of dawn at Regina Rex reviewed in On-Verge by Jacob Kiernan, 7/21/15
"What is a birdcage more than an ornamental set of fetters? An arabesque of soldered steel to house an avian companion. Unlike a menagerie, it does not try to imitate nature, providing comfort to the creature within. Instead, its ornate structure is a pleasure to those who look on from the outside. A birdcage is man’s artful triumph over nature.
Elizabeth Kley’s approach is different. In her show Translucent Threads of Dawn, she constructs beautiful, clay birdcages, now on display at Regina Rex. While the rolled steel of a utilitarian birdcage gives the illusion of freedom whilst entrapping its resident, Kley’s earthen structures could scarcely contain a condor.
Two feet tall, each of the cages is constructed from slatternly columns, forming an extravagant, imaginary domicile. One is forged from muddled rectangles, another oblong circles, the third topped with triangles, the last made of kinky semicircles. The cages share an ornate and towering presence. Glazed on the outside in bright gold, lime green and turquoise, they remain undressed on the inside. Bare clay shows through the negative space. The cages possess a definitive pomp—erect and glamorous.
Translucent Threads of Dawn pairs Kley’s cages with Conrad Ventur’s colorfully, dark photographs of an elderly Mario Montez, one of Warhol’s superstars, who acted in thirteen of his films. Considering Kley’s own interest in drag, it is hard not to be reminded of the film that shares her subject matter’s name. The brightly glazed exteriors juxtaposed with Ventur’s photographs illuminates the pageantry of dress in each medium.
Likewise, just as the birdcages serves as an elaborate constraint, so can gender. Glamorous from the outside, an aviary ensnare a life within, as often does polarized conceptions of gender. The conversation between Kley and Ventur’s work highlights the boundaries of gender as constant negotiation in public and private space, and as interior and exterior perception. Like the columns of Kley’s cages, dolled-up on the outside and raw on the inside, gender is a construction rife with pomp and pitted with significance.
Clay, itself, is a material that begins as malleable, and then solidifies to a rigid final form. And, the field of ceramics occupies a precarious middle ground between art and craft, sculpture and painting, function and beauty. Like a drag queen, ceramicists are constantly navigating where and how to situate themselves within these preconceived boundaries.
Yet, Kley’s cages are little akin to Ilya Chashnik and Constructivist pottery, which applied plainer design to supplement functional objects. More so, she seems to harken back to Futurist ceramics, which emphasized speed of construction, or parody Bauhaus pottery, which attempted combining art and utility to find a higher form.
In his ontological investigation of the nature of the “Thing,” Martin Heidegger takes as his essential example a ceramic jug. A jug is made of a material (clay), has form (that of a pitcher or carafe), and function (for pouring a fine Italian, or German, wine), but there is something more to the jug than just this. The jug, most essentially, contains something. And what it contains, Heidegger argues, is not just wine, but empty space, the void. He concludes, “the vessel’s thingness does not reside at all in the materials of which it consists, but in the void that it holds.”
What is most beautiful about Kley’s cages not the way she combines color and clay, pomp and crudeness, function and form (though these elements are sublime). What is most wonderful about her cages are what they don’t contain, a prisoner. The colorful glaze, elaborate structure, and gaping holes come together to imagine the bird that has flown free of its cage. The beauty of her cages is what they don’t contain."
translucent threads of dawn at Regina Rex reviewed in Two Coats of Paint by Jonathan Stevenson 7/1715
"….The show brings together Elizabeth Kley’s ominous ceramic cages (and one bottle) of different resonances, and Conrad Ventur’s haunting photographs of underground movie legend and Warhol favorite Mario Montez (who died in 2013) in various guises and locales. What do glazed clay enclosures have to do with a flamboyant cross-dressing gay actor?
Ventur’s exquisitely composed pictures recall some of Montez’s performances. They are vividly colorful yet relentlessly glossy, and Montez’s visage is expressive but constant. These qualities make the images seem at once extroverted and devoid of emotional differentiation. In turn, the delicateness and outward color of Kley’s work belie the manifest purpose of the structures it references: to capture.
What could emerge for some viewers from this juxtaposition is that Montez (and unconventional people like him) saw the cultural mainstream as a seductive trap, and eluded and defied it with deadpan resolve. This notion broadly jibes with the gender-role farce La Cage aux Folles (remade as The Birdcage), in which a cage also figures as a metaphor. Whether or not any allusion is intended, the exhibition tweaks social and emotional nerves in its own smart, provocative, and timely way."
translucent threads of dawn at Regina Rex reviewed in ArtFCity by Michael Anthony Farley and Corinna Kirsch 7/9/15
"....Out of everything up in the LES right now, this show is my absolute favorite. I wanted to bring a sleeping bag and live in this gallery—which is saying a lot because it’s such an awkward space. The work here is magical. Conrad Ventur’s photographs work so well with Kley’s birdcages on so many levels. They have this sort of tropical escapist quality to them; channeling midcentury glamour and the construction of then-newly-accessible “resort culture.” Like, when travel for pleasure became a middle-class possibility, but with its reference point still the glitz of old Hollywood. They feel aspirational. Here, Montez and Ventur queer that image of glamour, calling out the artifice while proposing that it’s accessible even more so via appropriation. But at the same time, they’re vulnerable and seem to be eulogizing an era that’s end(ing/ed). Kley’s ceramics are brittle and frail—several of them seemed to be already cracking—and Mario Montez passed away shortly after these photos were taken...."
Summer's Top Group Exhibitions in New York City
Inside the Episode featured in TimeOut's 2015 list of best summer group exhibitions, July 21, 2015
More Now than Then: When Art Reaches Back
Anthropocene at CANADA, review by Thomas Micchelli in Hyperallergic.com, August 16, 2014
NADA New York Does it Better Than Ever
work is featured in Hrag Vartanian's Hyperalleric.com article on NADA New York 2014, May 10, 2014
Finding Something at NADA New York
work is featured in artnet.com online article by Ben Davis on NADA New York 2014. May 9, 2014
This Clay's on Fire! Behind the Surprising New Renaissance in Ceramic Art, by Ian Wallace
work is featured in online article on ceramics from Artspace magazine, April 2014
Installation Magazine 3/2014
article online about solo installation for Season at Volta NY
zingchat interview August 2013
interview by Rachel Cole Dalamagas on zingmagazine website
Huffington Post Best of 2010 by G. Roger Denson
In this decade in which the global art market has become more a mongrel affair than a thoroughbred show, when nations and cultures like China, Iran, and fundamentalist Islam are shaking Western sensibilities to their core, Elisabeth Kley's ability to revitalize ceramic art with an appearance of ancient and far cultural motifs and styles from around the globe is not only timely, it's in tune with the reappraisal of tradition that is marking much of the art being made abroad and newly introduced to the West. Kleys's work by and large evokes the distance of time and geography without directly appropriating extant cultural designs. Her work is evocative of something we've seen somewhere in our travels or on museum visits -- at times recalling Persian, Venetian, Florentine, Chinese, and Moroccan design and ornament [see slide]--but truly articulates no one style or artifact we can name or point to. Similarly, Kley's glaze paintings recall arabesques, organic vignettes, manuscript illuminations--though her most significant accomplishment is presenting us a richly variegated cross-culturalism that blurs history, lineage, global politics and identities for a generation of global, aesthete-nomads in pursuit of an eclectic and mutable, if resurrected, beauty.
New York Times review of Momenta show by Roberta Smith 2/16/07
A fascination with drag queens and, it would seem, their relationship to the exotic and to non-Western decorative traditions fuels Elisabeth Kley's ink drawings and sly ceramic vessels. Continuity is provided by the peacock; after all, the male of the species is naturally in drag, and his extravagant, wide-eyed tail feathers have inspired countless decorative motifs, especially in Middle Eastern cultures. Many of Ms. Kley's ink drawings deconstruct the peacock, giving its open tail the rigidity of a wrought-iron grill or elaborating it into a nearly abstract eyes-only pattern.
Other drawings are extravagant renderings of extravagant characters, including the filmmaker Jack Smith in a turban, and the Warhol denizen Candy Darling. Nearly life-size, these images are executed with flair, but Ms. Kley is not above redoing the features that don't satisfy her with additional bits of collage, which enhances the sense of made-up artifice while increasing the works' physical robustness.
But the most impressive works remain Ms. Kley's updates on majolica, vases of a vaguely 1950s vintage whose decoration almost always includes pairs of knowing, secretive eyes that stare back at the viewer, reversing the gaze -- whether it is Western or straight.
Studio visit with Elisabeth Kley
video made for Studio Visit at Exit Art, December 2005