Ellen Schafer at New Low and The Fulcrum Press / Los Angeles

Ellen Schafer / Simplicity

June 27 - August 22, 2021

New Low
705 S Rampart Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90057
United States

The Fulcrum Press
727 N Broadway #205
Los Angeles, CA 90012
United States

Simplicity is an exhibition of new works by Los Angeles based artist Ellen Schafer. It takes place across two spaces, New Low and The Fulcrum, in Chinatown. 

At the top of New Low’s brick fa├žade sits Animal Pals (2021), a channel letter sign, visible 24 hours a day. Here, above New Low’s street-facing window frames, the word “DAYCARE” acts as a caption to the space. When Schafer first proposed this work, I couldn’t help but chuckle, thinking about this sign above this place I so often occupy, and knowing how aware she is of what a child I am. But as we discussed further, we agreed that suspension of immaturity is almost prerequisite for being an artist; this stubborn insistence on maintaining and exalting playtime, and convincing ourselves, and sometimes others, that it is work. Here, New Low loses its specificity as place and becomes a stand-in for all art spaces which aim to “take care” of artists, offering the type of purpose, guidance, distractions they need to activate their own agency, even if only temporarily. 

A silver, foil, heart-shaped balloon tied to a nickel plated, cast aluminum weight hovers inside the gallery, with references to Warhol, Lawler, and the quiet genesis of New Low as a project. Nods to humble beginnings and inflated expectations feature prominently in Simplicity. A stack of playroom cubbies sits against one wall of the gallery. They serve as display and storage for “Immortal Daycare Studio” clothing created by the Schafer for this exhibition. Somewhere between PE dress-out uniform and day spa garb, these outfits allude to deep comforts and deeper seeded insecurities, where bodies may be pampered or shamed or both. The spine support of the cubbies has been replaced with a custom cast, identical shape in resin which includes bits of detritus from the artist’s studio – remnants of past play dates and reminders of not picking up one’s room. 

In the center of the space sits an empty, undersized table and chairs set. Here, in her postgrad debut, Schafer, who considers herself the “eternal art student-in-waiting” has custom cast one of the chairs, creating an imaginary place for herself in the “art world,” while also maintaining a perpetual spot at the kids’ table. 

In The Way We Were (1974), Gladys Knight asks “Can it be that it was all so simple then? Or has time rewritten every line? And if we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we? Could we?” In Simplicity, Ellen Schafer earnestly asks if we could change all the trauma, disappointment, loss of friends and opportunities, and heartbreak that has left us wistfully childish, would we? Or are all the lessons, conversations, laughter, care, and moments of meaning and purpose worth it?

Ellen Schafer (b. 1985, New York, NY) is an Aries Sun, Gemini Moon, and Virgo Rising. She received a BA from the Glasgow School of Art, was an MFA Candidate at USC Roski School of Art (2014-2015), and received an MFA from UC Irvine (2020). Simplicity, at New Low and The Fulcrum, is her first solo exhibition in Los Angeles.