2015 Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artist Awards

October 24 - December 16


Installation view, Jill Downen, "Threshold," 2015, gold leaf, acetate, watercolor paper, cement, pumice, plaster, acrylic matte medium, dry pigment, drywall joint compound, polystyrene, and latex, Courtesy of the artist and Bruno David Gallery
Jill Downen, "Threshold" (detail), 2015, plaster
Opening reception
Installation view, Rashawn Griffin, "Untitled," 2015 fabric, glass, collage, wood, water soluble oil, acrylic, gouache, and mixed media,
Installation view, Rashawn Griffin, "Dimple," 2015, acrylic mirror plexiglass, wood, vinyl, and light
Misha Kligman, "Goodnight Nobody," 2015, oil on canvas
Installation view, Misha Kligman


Since 1997, Kansas City’s Charlotte Street Foundation has recognized and provided support for outstanding visual artists in Kansas City. The Artspace proudly presented the 2015 Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artist Awards exhibition featuring new work by the 2015 Fellows: Jill Downen, Rashawn Griffin, and Misha Kligman.
Opening Reception: Friday, October 23, 2015
For more information about Charlotte Street, its awards, programs and initiatives, visit the website.
This exhibition was generously supported by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.


Exhibition Checklist
Jill Downen
Threshold, 2015
gold leaf, acetate, watercolor paper, cement, pumice, plaster, acrylic, matte medium, dry pigment,
drywall joint compound, polystyrene, and latex
dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist and Bruno David Gallery, St Louis
Misha Kligman
Grasp, 2015
oil on canvas
72 x 84 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Misha Kligman
Goodnight Nobody, 2015
oil on canvas
84 x 72 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Misha Kligman
The Unsaid, 2015
oil on canvas
72 x 84 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Misha Kligman
Not Yet, 2015
oil on canvas
84 x 72 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Rashawn Griffin
Untitled, 2015
fabric, glass, collage, wood, water soluble oil, acrylic, gouache, and mixed media
dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist
Rashawn Griffin
Dimple, 2015
acrylic mirror plexiglass, wood, vinyl, and light
88 x 84 x 132 inches
Courtesy of the artist
Rashawn Griffin
Untitled (can’t do this), 2015
ink and graphite on paper, acrylic, wood, plastic, fur, and reed
dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist
Rashawn Griffin
Untitled (and I would eat my children), 2015
wool, denim, polyester, and thread
96 x 432 inches
Courtesy of the artist

Special thanks to Zach Aaron and Reliant Media Systems


Jill Downen

Downen’s art is a focused investigation of the symbiotic relationship between the human body and architecture expressed in temporal installations, drawings, and models. Her art envisions a place of interdependent relation between the human body and architecture, where the exchanging forces and tensions of construction, deterioration, and restoration emerge as thematic possibilities.

Significant awards include: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship, Studios Inc Residency in Kansas City, MacDowell Colony National Endowment for the Arts residency, and Cité International des Arts Residency in Paris. Downen has created site specific installations for museums such as Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Oklahoma City Museum of Art and American University Art Museum at the Katzen. Downen has been invited to lecture about her work extensively, including the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. and the Luce Irigaray Circle Philosophy Conference in New York. Her art has been reviewed in publications including Art in America, Sculpture, Art Papers, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the New York Times. Downen lives and maintains her studio in Kansas City, and is represented by the Bruno David Gallery in St. Louis. She holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA as a Danforth Scholar from Washington University in St. Louis. Jill Downen is currently an assistant professor of sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute.

“The body is the primary vehicle one has for understanding the world. I want to offer viewers immersive environments that heighten the senses and ways of knowing that are often private and experiential. I see architecture as an extension of the body; a metaphoric prolongation of self. In my visual language, the city is flesh and both people and buildings embody the nature of temporality. I see human culture as being in a state of need for stillness and quietness. My art offers audiences a place to slow down and alter their perceptions in order to see and think in new ways.”
Rashawn Griffin
Rashawn Griffin works in painting, sculpture, and installation.  With materials ranging from fabric and tassels to paint and cookies, his practice uses poetic relationships between objects and painting, highlighting the “strangeness and beauty” in-between.
He was born in Los Angeles, California and he received a MFA from Yale University in 2005. Griffin was a 2005-2006 resident of the Studio Museum in Harlem’s AIR program. Since then, his work has been exhibited widely, including the 2008 Whitney Biennial, a the two-person exhibition at the Studio Museum (RSVP), as well as “Freeway Balconies” at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, Germany and “Black Now” at the Longwood Gallery in the Bronx, New York, curated by Collier Schorr and Fred Wilson respectively.  Recently the subject of the solo exhibition “A hole-in-the-wall country” at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, Kansas, his work has been included in the exhibition “Minimal Baroque” at Rønnebæksholm in Næstved, Denmark, as well as “30 Seconds off an Inch” at the Studio Museum in Harlem.  
Misha Kligman
Misha Kligman’s work is self-reflective insofar as it originates from the examination of the subjective experience.  However, each body of Kligman’s work points to larger themes such as the tension between death and duty, thought and action, empathy and justice, and generally the relationship of art to one’s life.
Misha Kligman received a BFA in Painting and Drawing from University of Kansas in 2009 and BA in Art from Cleveland State University in 2001.  Most recently Kligman’s work has been exhibited at 1522 Saint Louise, Kansas City and appeared in New American Painting, issue #119.  Reviews of Kligman’s work have been published in The Kansas City Star, Lawrence Journal-World and The Cleveland Plain Dealer among others.  Kligman is a participant in the curatorial collaborative Plug Projects and is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor of Art at the Johnson County Community College.  He lives and works in Kansas City where he shares a studio with his wife, painter Amy Kligman.


2015 Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artist Awards: Jill Downen, Rashawn Griffin and Misha Kligman
Erin Dziedzic, David Cateforis and Kelly Shindler
Jill Downen: The Approach
Jill Downen’s installation Threshold is part of an ongoing body of work she has created in service to her memory of when lightning struck her childhood home, and its lasting structural aftereffects. The explosive lightning current caused the “skin to peel away,” exposing “the bones of the house,” wood, pipes, plaster, and wires.[i] Downen excels at engaging space in a way that is simultaneously subtle and impressionable, extensive yet seamless, and is able to synchronize a firm framework with a bodily softness. Amidst these dialectics in Threshold Downenexplores a world of perception, of sensation, and experience activated by an installation of three interconnected components, ushering in new planes and surfaces that expand the phenomenology of the manner in which viewers approach her environments.
A reinstalled work that has been modified for this exhibition, Inscribe, is an undulating line of molded plaster that extends outward from the wall and snakes from floor to ceiling. The serpentine form evokes the shape of a lighting bolt, emphasizing the permanent mark that Downen’s childhood memory has inscribed on her work. On the adjacent wall, Downen customized the lower left quadrant where a window cuts into the gallery for her work Membrane a multi-paneled, mixed-media violet painting on watercolor paper. Membrane hangs horizontally just a few inches above the floor, where a sliver of natural light creates an illuminated bar just below the monochromatic painting like a new horizon. Lastly, Rejoinder, a sixteen-by-four-foot gold leafed sheet of clear acetate vertically bisects Membrane and floats parallel to Inscribe.
Rejoinder acts as the pivotal element in the Threshold installation. Its malleable surface sways, responding to the movement of air in the space. The delicate gold leaf catches Membrane’s violet hues glimmering across its surface, while tiny exposed cracks where the golden flecks have fallen from the clear surface allow light to permeate the underlying acetate. As viewers advance toward the reflective wall of gold, blurred outlines of the surrounding world are cast back as distorted shadowy forms. In passing by the crease of the golden acetate formed by oscillating air in the space, our own out-of-focus body is abruptly slowed down, and for a brief moment we pass by an impression of ourselves. This slight drag in time, a tear in our present temporal moment, makes us acutely aware of our own trajectory in the space.
The arrangement of Threshold activates the gallery space in a dramatic departure from traditional laws of one-point viewing perspective. Instead, the trio of works coalesces into a temporal experience beyond our perceived physical world, illustrating the activation of space as described by minimalist artist Stephen Antonakos (1926–2013) which “involves the senses, including the kinetic sense, the mind, the emotions, the imagination—really finally a pure sense of being.”[ii] French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908–1961) suggests that “we must try to understand how vision can be brought into being from somewhere without being enclosed in its perspective.”[iii] Ultimately, it is the viewer’s cadence toward and amongst the works and his or her own rhythm and gaze which activate the spatial possibilities of Downen’s newest work.
Erin Dziedzic is curator and head of adult programs at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri.
Rashawn Griffin
“Frame” is a word rich with multiple meanings.  The noun can denote, among other things, a constructional system giving shape or strength; an open structure that admits or supports; an enclosing border or bordered area; or a limiting set of circumstances.  As a verb, it can mean to formulate or draw up; to construct by fitting together the parts of a skeleton; and to enclose within boundaries. 
All of these definitions are relevant to a deep appreciation of Rashawn Griffin’s engrossing installation.  Framed within the Artspace’s ground-floor back rooms, Griffin’s work features a free-standing, rectangular structure whose 7’ 4”-high walls are covered with plexiglass mirrors.  Conspicuous vertical seams between the mirrors draw attention to each as a separate reflecting frame.  Flush with the south wall of the gallery, lush with solid grays and blues accented by a column of vivid scarlet, is an 8’ x 36’ composition of stitched-together, loosely rectangular bands of fabric stretched over frames – a sewn color-field painting.  Extending diagonally across the space above eye level, two taut cables scribe dynamic lines to create aerial borders. 
Punctuating the opposite wall to the north, framed rectangles of green pool-table felt comprise a wall pierced by an open door frame – a portal to a 10’ x 15’ room whose back wall is covered with safety orange fabric.  Sunk within the orange field is a quartet of small, vertical, framed art works.  Identical in format, three are enigmatic, spare paintings bearing fragmented figurative imagery; the fourth is a glass box, its front pane whimsically collaged with old-fashioned illustrations of men’s hats, spatially aligned with cut-out illustrations of human and animal heads floating on the back pane amidst scattered paint strokes and various small objects and materials.
We may easily lose ourselves within the frame of this beguiling and aesthetically generous mixed-media work, but elsewhere we are made highly aware of our physical presence within Griffin’s installation.  We see ourselves and others reflected in the surfaces of the mirrored structure.  Around the back, we discover that it frames a room, and pass through its open door into a black-vinyl lined interior where we become conscious of our bodies occupying a close, dark space divided by a few partition walls.  On the floor in the back corner more aesthetic pleasure beckons: electric light, muffled behind a fabric scrim, changing every few seconds from blue to purple to green.  Contemplating these soothing colors we may again become unselfconsciously absorbed.
On the wall near the installation’s entrance/exit hangs another small, vertical, mixed-media work. Within the glass-fronted frame, a torn piece of paper bears a few faintly drawn finger-like forms and these handwritten words: “I can’t do this, who knows what will happen? People depend on me.”  The initial I is scribbled over, intensifying the text’s plaintive tone.  What does it mean and how does it relate to the rest of Griffin’s installation?  We must each find our own answer, from our own frame of reference.
David Cateforis is professor of Art History at the University of Kansas.
Misha Kligman
There is an ambivalence to Misha Kligman’s art particularly well suited to whatever he paints. From early allusions to the Holocaust and geopolitical despotism to memento mori and indeterminate landscapes, his swarthy canvases maintain a somber critical distance that befits their futile task of depicting, or at least addressing, historical trauma and our unfortunate penchant to forget. Kligman’s works brood over their own inadequacy through bruised palettes, flat picture planes, and an often aggressively large scale (measuring as large as 6 by 7 feet).  When they do feature a figure, its contours are never fully defined, receding instead into the background to produce a ghostly effect. Even landscapes, which have become the primary focal point of Kligman’s practice over the last several years, exhibit trepidation. A series of Untitled landscapes from the Threshold series (2014) collapses into near-abstraction, their marks sanded down into dedifferentiated color fields of black, purple, red, and yellow.  It comes as no surprise, then, that recent works have featured bridges, rafts, staircases, and railroad tracks, among other signifiers of passage and transition. For Kligman’s is a restless practice in continual flux. It questions the potential for an image (and therefore a painting) to ever cohere in its address of the ineffable.
More recently, Kligman’s work has marked a shift from the external world into an altogether more personal space. He has taken up this subject before, albeit from a historical prompt—the artist grew up in Kazan, Russia, and emigrated to the United States with his family when he was 17, settling in Cleveland upon arrival. His early works in the Mouthful of Silence (2009) and Scent of Time (2010) seriesconfronted the legacy of historical trauma, a subject that held personal resonance for the artist and his family. The landscape paintings in the Threshold (2013) and Without (2014) series that followed also connect to the notion of bearing witness. In this sense, they recall the work of Anselm Kiefer, Sally Mann, Richard Mosse, Zarina Bhimji, and others who imbue landscapes with a charged sense of remembrance.
Kligman’s new paintings for the Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artist Awards bring figure and landscape together, juxtaposing these visual strategies to articulate a number of formal and conceptual tensions. Drawing from the artist’s own experience of becoming a father, the paintings play on the push-pull of aloofness and sentimentality in the recognition of one’s own mortality that accompanies parenthood. Two of the works feature part-objects—a pair of hands, a pair of feet—while the other two present full portraits of a woman and a boy (the artist’s wife and young son), their faces turned either fully or partially away from the viewer. To make them, Kligman worked straight on the canvas, painting in part from photographs he had taken. The immediacy of such direct painting is palpable in the sketchiness of the landscape-backgrounds. Here, landscape for Kligman is no longer a primary narrative or thematic device but rather a classic foreground/background painterly strategy to hold, or perhaps catch, the floating figure. The final works, suspended in a state of unfinish, are brazenly awkward. Hands grasp, feet inch forward, a woman looks toward the future, a boy dreams. Each elicits the space of memory. Commenting on a recent body of work, Kligman offered that his paintings “are hopeful in a sense that maybe a painting can be more than an object but a kind of place where the past and future collide, in the process revealing that which is most hidden—our present.” The works in this exhibition martial this hopefulness through an almost Brechtian pictorial staging that denotes a sophisticated art practice—and a life—deep in progress.
Kelly Shindler is Associate Curator at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.

[i] Jill Downen, in conversation with the author, October 4, 2015.
[ii] Stephen Antonakos, interview with the author in preparation for the exhibition Darkness and Light, 2008.

[iii] Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (London and New York: Routledge, 1945), 77. 


October 24 Sat
November 19 Thu
December 4 Fri


Press Release

2015 Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artist Awards exhibition to open October 24 at H&R Block Artspace
KCAI Press Release |
Thu, 2015-10-15

The work of the Visual Artist Awards Fellows will be featured in the “2015 Charlotte Street Visual Artist Awards” exhibition with an opening reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Friday, October 23 at the H&R Block Artspace 

Charlotte Street Foundation announces recipients of the 2015 Charlotte Street Awards
Charlotte Street Foundation |
Wed, 2015-03-25

The Charlotte Street Foundation is proud to announce five recipients of the 2015 Charlotte Street Awards. The 2015 Charlotte Street Visual Artist Award Fellows are Jill Downen, Rashawn Griffin, and
Misha Kligman.

Selected Press

KCStar |
Sun, 2015-12-06

 Exhibit includes large-scale paintings and a mirrored cube.

KC Studio |
Wed, 2015-11-04

The Artspace floor plan contributes to an especially effective exhibition, as each room contains the work of just one artist.