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EXTENDED through December 10th 2023


Opening Reception: 10/14 6-9 pm


Cleo the Gallery is pleased to present ‘Crisp Kitsch’ with work by Sara French, Theo Skeete, Ben Tollefson, Angelica Lorenzi, and Neal Hollinger. This exhibition features kitsch ornamentation through the influence of film, dreamscapes, nature, and utility.


The narrative reflected in the latest body of work by Ben Tollefson is inspired by a scene at the fictional club ‘The Queen of Hearts’ in ‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again’ (1976). The club features ornaments of queer tropes in midcentury America that have since been reclaimed by the culture. These ornaments include cartoon hearts, neon lighting, the drama of an unopened curtain and the isolation of body parts. Together they set a stage for characters to inhabit under the careful consideration of Tollefson’s signature attention to capturing slick detail. The reimagining of the surrounding scenery from the film to the moments of an unveiling in the paintings is a reclamation of kitsch to objectify queer identity from the heteronormative gaze. It is a celebration of that unveiling of identity, with the lush landscapes welcoming, and even situating themselves around the event.       


From the emblems present in Ben’s storyboarding to the 3D works of the other four artists flanking his narrative, there is kitsch entering into the discussion of domestic design. Angelica Lorenzi fabricates household items like candlesticks, mirrors, and vases that involve whimsy in both their narrative and assembly. Her work centers around nature and features cartooned critters, creatures and floral references that are an invocation of the outdoors into interior design. The tangled and braided ropes adding volume to the work nod to traditional utility and an early resource for children to scrutinize texture. In that same vein the polymer clay that is used to build these pieces identifies with childhood exploration into material building. 


With a similar application of signs taken from nature, Sara French uses cartooned flowers, and an additional pulsating neon color palette to create her whimsied clocks. French’s work could be taken from an animated landscape under the influence of Memphis Design. With similar motives to the 80’s architecture group, the clocks drive against minimalist decor outfitting domestic space as extensions of self. They celebrate the additive through their embrace of stylized form, eccentric coloring, and complex terrain of texture found in the pulped paper used to make the works.

The Lamps from Neal Hollinger in the exhibition also embrace bold expression through an exaggerated color palette and ode to the outdoors. Inspired by the resurgence of 90’s psychedelic imagery, the work involves muses like clams and clouds with the added glow of a bulb burning within them. This glow adds depth to the lamps' surroundings as they radiate complex color onto their vicinity. The final results are that of a room humming with warmth and an expression of hues that enliven the space.


Finally kitsch design is found in the exploration of utility through Theo Skeete’s welded works. Using the chainlink as a creative influence, Skeete creates household objects such as candlesticks and napkin holders that reimagine the fluid tool holding its shape. It is a trick that takes its original task to newly imagined applications. This same approach to interior design blends into his other artistic explorations, with everyday objects deceiving the viewer in their final forms. Skeete’s works are an ode to Surrealism and DADA and ultimately a salute to kitsch that finds itself in good company with the appreciation of the style from the other four exhibiting artists. 

Please join us for the opening reception on October 14th from 6-9 pm. 


Ben Tollefson is an American painter and curator with a BA from Wisconsin Lutheran College and an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. His most recent solo exhibitions include ‘Heaven Scenes I-VII’ at Location Gallery and ‘Wish You Were Here’ at Iridian Gallery. He has shown work in group shows at Laney Contemporary, Sulfur Studios and Gutstein Gallery. Having previously run Non-Fiction Gallery, Tollefson now works at SCAD Museum of Art curating solo exhibitions that include Lily van der Stokker, Wendy White, Shoplifter, Wong Ping, Lee Bul, and Emily Mae Smith. He currently lives and works in Savannah, GA. / @bentollefson


Angelica Lorenzi is an Italian multimedia artist and educator. In her practice she taps into the knowledge passed down from our ancestors, reinterpreting it in the contemporary context. Her work, the result of a slow, searching process, manifests itself through multiple identities that take the form of domestic objects, rituals and worlds that linger between the magical and the real. Angelica's work has been shown in various international exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale of Architecture, SPRING/BREAK Art Show, TAB Tallinn Architecture Biennale and Vienna Biennale. The ‘Divination’ floor lamp and ‘Apollo’ table lamp are part of the Zabludowicz Collection.  Lorenzi is currently based in Los Angeles. / @angelica_lorenzi


Sara French is a Canadian sculptor by way of bookmaking, performance and drawing. Her work has been featured at Projet Pangée, Pallas Projects, Jack Hanley Gallery, and Rental Gallery. She is currently based in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal.




Neal Hollinger is an American painter and sculptor. He received his BFA from the School of Art and Design at Alfred University and his work has been featured at Bravin Lee, International Objects,  DDay, One Mile Gallery, and Garner Arts Center. He is currently based in upstate, NY.



Theo Skeete is an American sculptor and welder. Coming from a background of making functional metal objects, Skeete has started to enjoy honing his craft while getting the chance to make art. Originally based in Atlanta and then Oakland, he now resides in Savannah, GA. 


Photos by Jasmine Hsu

List of Works


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