Stereophonic / Semaphoric

This exhibition represents a broad set of explorations in my studio that have taken place mostly within the confines of the pandemic. The isolated conditions have provoked a re-examination of my priorities and promoted a renewed spirit of fascination with the functional and mechanical realm as it intermingles with a long history of formal visual concerns. The results thus far extend from audio and sound composition, through design and accumulation to formal considerations, fabrication and installation.

Stereophonic / Semaphoric as a title came about as a descriptor for sorting out a variety of directions in the studio and evolved into a framework that allows each of the directions to infiltrate the others. Through iterative cycles of a make-and-respond trial and error process each round of adjustments reveals the conditions for the next.

The stereophonic is audible, enigmatic, technical, transitory and projected. It reflects my history of involving sound in installations and video, this time as an awkward hybrid of design, performance and sculpture. It hovers around the seemingly endless mockup process of a simple speaker design, where the presence is fine-tuned by the systems that interact with them – home and office stereos and audio delivery devices used to reproduce recorded or streamed music. Yet this set of components drifts from the realm of reproduction into a direct set of sound producers and kinetic sculptures. It moves into a performance realm, involving a studio rehearsal process that finds temporary resolve in the gallery installation.

The semaphoric is visual, utilitarian, gestural and patterned. With elements primarily composed in the studio, singular yet interactive, they are able to form integral relationships with each other. This framework involves a continued return to some of my earliest studio investigations with how the structure of physical support for a painting can become its own content. Sign and signaling infrastructure underpins reference for the work and the inclusion of everyday materials connects to utility. The semaphoric lexicon hijacks a formal fine art language to send signals.

The continual call and response in the studio loosens the bolts of the boundaries between all of these disciplines and between a variety of contexts.  The outcomes have evolved into tools for more outcomes, with “semaphoric” adjustments applied to the “stereophonic” conditions, and vice versa. This is a laboratory with a set of concerns, curiosities and compulsions organized and set in motion. The artifacts, paintings, systems, and tools that I have gathered and fabricated are the sorts of things that I want to be surrounded with – the sorts of things I can continually adjust and re-configure for new transmission.


James Woodfill 

January 2022


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