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New Work by Jessica Drenk and Shawn Smith at Cain Schulte Contemporary Art in San Francisco
Jessica Drenk, Carving III, books & wax, 9 inches tall. Photo: Courtesy Cain Schulte Contemporary Art.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- Cain Schulte Contemporary Art San Francisco presents an exhibition of new work by Jessica Drenk and Shawn Smith, featuring 8-bit and mixed media sculptures.

Shawn Smith’s work investigates the slippery intersection between the digital world and reality; specifically, the way we experience nature through technology. Starting from the observation that images of “nature” on TV or on a computer screen are really only seeing patterns of pixilated light, Smith recreates three-dimensional sculptural representations of these two-dimensional images with small wood cubes, resembling 8-bit pixels, which resolve into much larger sculptures representing natural forms. Through the process of pixilation, color is distilled, some bits of information are lost, and the form is abstracted. Smith builds his “things”—as he calls them—pixel by pixel to understand how each pixel plays a crucial role in the identity of an object. His conceptual and material practice humorously explores the juxtaposition between the natural world and the digital world and the changing relationship between technology and natural history, as we become more removed from first hand experience by observing the world through a screen.

SHAWN SMITH was born in Texas, in 1972. He is a recipient of the Clare Hart DeGolyer grant from the Dallas Museum of Art, and has an upcoming show at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2012. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and Europe: at the Austin Museum of Art, Arthouse at the Jones Center (Austin), Galveston Art Center, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), Oakland Arts Museum, Berkeley Art Center, Dean Lesher Center for the Arts (California), Holter Museum of Art (Montana), Northwest Art Center (North Dakota), Lawndale Art Center (Houston), the Armory Art Center (Florida), and the Wichita Falls Museum of Art, among others. He was commissioned to create a monumental public sculpture in San Francisco, CA. Smith lives and works in Austin, Texas.

Jessica Drenk's work is also influenced by systems of information. The breadth of the work included in the exhibition includes a wood pieces series (Processions), which has a direct material similarity, as well as a pixilated or digital sensibility, to Smith’s work. But while Smith starts from an accumulation of small wooden pieces to create an organic form, Drenk’s work here results into non-representational imagery and repetitive, post-minimalist patterns. Other works on display include sculptured books, altered with a process that involves submerging found books in wax, then twisting and chiseling them until they become abstract forms, as well as a series of works made of disposable objects like toothpicks, pencils, coffee filters, Q-tips. Manipulating these common materials in unexpected ways, Drenk creates objects reminiscent of the natural world, but entirely unique. Each material is examined deeply, with the artist intuitively pursuing new forms and pushing materials beyond the use they were intended for, thus developing her own language with each. Drenk's manufactured artifacts force the viewer to focus on mundane, commonly used objects and materials and to ponder on identity, technology, and the creation of a conjured unnatural history.

JESSICA DRENK is the recipient of the prestigious International Sculpture Center's Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award, 2006. In 2009, she received an Artist Project Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Her work has been featured in Sculpture Magazine, the Albuquerque Museum, the Tucson Museum of Art, the International Book Fair of Contemporary Creative Books in Marseilles, France, 25th of May Museum, Belgrade, Serbia, as well as in galleries across the United States. Drenk currently lives and works in Clemson, South Carolina.

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