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.