Catalogue Essay by Kaegan Sparks

Elizabeth Duffy’s hallmark environments emerge from an obsessive focus on atmospheric design—in particular, certain demure compositions that, like a Bauhaus chair, manifest pure, understated functionality. The purpose of these compositions is to obfuscate other images; self-effacing and banal, they disclose their textures only via the cellophane window of an empty billing envelope. 

Since 2007 Duffy has been appropriating the “data protection patterns” printed inside envelopes to conceal sensitive contents, casting their simple red, grey, and blue geometric permutations on textiles, glass, wallpaper, and even food in immersive installations modeled after private spaces. Her exaggeration of overlooked and ultimately disposable prints subverts their purpose to conceal and secure tokens of wealth and credit—instead they morph into omnipresent decorative motifs. dm contemporary’s location in an upscale residential building has given Duffy the opportunity to create her most extensive installation to date: the implied dwelling of an aspiring collector aptly titled Apartment 2B. Whereas in a conventional gallery setting, Duffy often amplifies the patterning within her constructed sets to produce a monotonous and claustrophobic tone, in Apartment 2B she implements a subtler (yet no less insistent) approach, echoing the reticent visibility of the envelope designs in their intended habitat. 

Spanning a living room, bedroom, bathroom, and the hallway that connects them, a combination of found, altered, and hand-made furnishings cohere into an elegant interior with an ulterior pulse. Duffy’s patterns gently interfere with the modernist simplicity of the apartment’s central space, where a scrambled logjam pattern is incised into the leather seats of Le Corbusier-inspired sofas, and recursive diagonals are etched into a coffee table’s glass inset. Two-tone prints further abound in the adjoining bedroom, on upholstery and linens, wallpaper and lampshades. As the artist describes, the figurative palette these institutional patterns span is surprisingly diverse and evocative: “There are literally thousands of variations, from corporate logos, to patterns that depict water, wood grain, text and symbols of every imaginable kind. 

Apartment 2B: Living Room
All furnishings are altered using security envelope patterning
Apartment 2B: detail of Living Room with Wallpaper and security envelope drawings
Apartment 2B, detail of Living Room with silkscreened cowhide rug and carved Arco lamp
Apartment 2B: Arco Lamp with security envelope window carved into base
Apartment 2B, Living Room
Apartment 2B, Living Room
All the furnishings in the room are altered using security envelope patterning.
Apartment 2B, detail of silkscreened cowhide hug and etched table
Apartment 2B, detail of Zig Zag chair with security envelope cushion and sofa with security envelope wear pattern
Apartment 2B, detail of Le Corbusier couch with security pattern wear in cushions
Detail of Etching on Cushions of Le Corbusier Couch and Chair in Chase Bank Statement pattern
Laser etched cushions
Detail of Curio Cabinet with Security Envelope Patterned objects
Apartment 2B
Apartment 2B, detail of sitting area with gallery of security envelope drawings, collages and embroideries
Apartment 2B, detail of bedroom with security envelope linens
Apartment 2B, detail of bedroom with security envelope linens and slippers with Wirrwarr by Jurgen Mayer
Apartment 2B, detail of dressing area
View from Dressing area in Bedroom
mixed media in security envelope patterns
Bedroom with security envelope linens and wallpaper
mixed media using security envelope patterns
Apartment 2B, detail of bedroom
Apartment 2B, bedroom detail
Living Room with Security envelope altered furnishings
Security envelope matts from Apartment 2B dressing room
Security Envelope Eyemask
Security envelope drawing & collage
Pencil on Security envelopes
13 x 7 inches
Security Envelope Travel Bag
Detail of Soap and Glass in Bath with Security Envelope Patterns
Detail of Tie
Slippers in Security Envelope Patterns
Visitors on the last day of the show!