Robert Schefman, “The Birds are the Keepers of Our Secrets,” 2019, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in.
Robert Schefman, “The Birds are the Keepers of Our Secrets,” 2019, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 in.

In his first solo exhibition with David Klein Gallery, Robert Schefman presents his recent series of paintings and drawings exploring the hidden world of secrets.

Robert Schefman: Secrets
Through December 21, 2019
David Klein Gallery (www.dkgallery.com)
Detroit, Michigan

Robert Schefman, “Secrets,” 2016, oil on canvas, 44 x 30 in.
Robert Schefman, “Secrets,” 2016, oil on canvas, 44 x 30 in.

More from the gallery:

Using social media as a device to reach a large audience, Schefman posted a request asking followers to send him one personal secret that he could use as a subject or an element in his paintings. The response was immediate and revealing. More than one hundred anonymous secrets were sent through the internet or by mail to the artist’s post office box.

Using the private information gathered from strangers’ letters as a point from which to investigate the conceptual nature of secrets, Schefman explored the specific responses and began to develop the ideas for this series over the course of several years. Many of the pieces in the “Secrets” exhibition refer directly to the actual secrets touchingly revealed in the anonymous letters or messages received by the artist. Additionally poignant were the descriptions of relief or catharsis brought on by confessing personal baggage, often for the first time.

Robert Schefman, “In Love with My Best Friend,” 2019, oil on canvas, 72 x 56 in.
Robert Schefman, “In Love with My Best Friend,” 2019, oil on canvas, 72 x 56 in.

“The secrets I collected were stories about the most private thoughts and experiences of people’s lives: love and relationships, addictions and compulsions, fears and shame. They wrote about events and decisions that brought on life’s emotional highlights and regrets. Some secrets were unique but most merged into groups that pointed to how much we all have in common. I think I expected the greatest number of secrets to be about hidden relationships and infidelities but was surprised to find that most of the secrets centered around depression.” — Robert Schefman, 2019

Schefman employs the practice of illusionist narrative paintings to define a corner of the world that seems visually familiar and yet no place the viewer has been before. It’s a place where the observer can read the elements for content and be drawn into the visual illusion of object, space, and form. Trained as a sculptor, his early career was focused on producing large-scale minimalist steel sculpture. Later on, seeking to build a narrative within his work, he turned to painting, both in watercolor and oil on canvas, developing the remarkable technique and the compelling content he is known for today.

Robert Schefman, “On the Edge of the Moon,” 2019, oil on canvas, 78 x 120 in.
Robert Schefman, “On the Edge of the Moon,” 2019, oil on canvas, 78 x 120 in.

Born and raised in Detroit, Robert Schefman earned a BFA in sculpture from Michigan State University and an MFA in sculpture from the University of Iowa. He lived and worked in New York City for fourteen years, returning to the Detroit area in 1990. His work has been included in exhibitions at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI; The Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, IN; Oakland University Art Gallery, Rochester, MI; Midland Center for the Arts, Midland, MI; The Krasl Art Center, St. Joseph, MI; Manifest Research Gallery, Cincinnati, OH; Foley Square/ Federal Plaza, New York City; the Brooklyn Army Terminal, New York City; Ward’s Island, New York City; and United Nations Plaza, New York City. Grants awarded include the Pollack-Krasner Foundation, the Bernard Maas Foundation, the Arts Foundation of Michigan, and the State of Michigan Creative Artist Grant.

Schefman’s drawings, paintings, and sculptures are in multiple private and public collections, including the Eli and Edythe Broad Museum of Art, East Lansing, MI; the Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC; the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI; the Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL; Wayne State University, Detroit, MI; Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Lansing, MI; and the University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA.

“Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned.” — James Joyce


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