BRAND LIBRARY & ART CENTER
1601 WEST MOUNTAIN ST. GLENDALE, CA 91201
Liz Miller Kovacs, 2021, Braunkohle Venus, video, 4 minutes 22 seconds
Brand Library & Art Center is pleased to present
“Mapping The Sublime: Reframing Landscape in the 21st Century”
April 2 – June 11, 2022.
Los Angeles-based artists Lawrence Gipe and Beth Davila Waldman organized this survey of a diverse group of 19 artists that challenge our culture’s entrenched conceptions regarding landscape, critically re-examining the genre as a mediated view of nature and a construction of centuries of aesthetic processing, demarcation and colonial expansion.The works persuade the viewer to consider the landscape genre anew, with traditional notions of the Sublime reevaluated to reflect contemporary issues of climate change and the Anthropocene. The artists featured have made compelling cases, over decades of practice and passion, for an issue that needs to be faced with ever-growing urgency.
Luciana Abait - Kim Abeles - Fatemeh Burnes - Linda Connor - Rodney Ewing - Guillermo Galindo - Lawrence Gipe
Dimitri Kozyrev - Ann Le - Constance Mallinson - Ryan McIntosh - Liz Miller Kovacs - Deborah Oropallo & Andy Rappaport
Kit Radford - Aili Schmeltz - Alex Turner - Rodrigo Valenzuela - Beth Davila Waldman - Amir Zaki
Mapping the Sublime
by Constance Mallinson
Concepts of the sublime gained importance in the eighteenth century as Romanticism aroused a passionate contemplation of nature as landscape artists grappled with their subjects. Articulated primarily by Edmund Burke (1729-1797), the sublime experience was animated in the presence of dramatic snowcapped mountains, thundering waterfalls, stormy seas, bottomless abysses, or the limitless starry heavens with terror, shock and awe being the “ruling principle of the sublime.” Any delight in these natural wonders soon metamorphosized into horrified feelings of destabilization or even dissolution in the viewer. According to Burke, an essentially controlled encounter with the uncontrollable, resulting in a standing on an existential brink and then a pulling away, had the power to ennoble, strengthen and ultimately transform the self. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) similarly observed that nature’s grandeur and boundlessness exceeds our human imagination to control or comprehend it. Because the sublime encounter caused an awareness of excess, we could then transform this recognition of our limitations and insufficiencies positively into enhanced reasoning powers. For numerous landscapists of the time, the sublime perspective often entailed religious or spiritual renewal.
Equally important to understanding this phenomenon is reckoning with the sublime’s constant companion, landscape painting and photography. Landscape imagery in all its forms from the mythical, documentary, to the symbolic has historically been used, sometimes nefariously, as an agent of social, economic, artistic and political change, with the ideologies and operative powers embedded in landscape rarely discussed. For example, landscape painting in the nineteenth century was closely allied with promoting Manifest Destiny in the United States and colonial expansion by both European and American interests. Magisterial scenes of glistening flowing waters, fertile valleys, and mineral rich mountain ranges rendered in lush seductive detail by painters like Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran enticed settlers with their promises of plentitude and freedom. The railroads could push west with popular support, plunder
resources and decimate native populations. This alignment of artists and industry helped facilitate the Age of Exuberance and continued until the country was fully settled, and artists were swayed by the Modernist project of defining a different intention for art in the late nineteenth century.
The current revival of the landscape genre as an important area of artistic exploration is reflective of postmodern attitudes toward critically examining the hidden motives in cultural productions as well as the urgency of climate change. Like the historical landscape painters, many contemporary artists identify nature as the primary source of the sublime, adhering to the romantic notions of sublimity but with less emphasis on spiritual transcendence and escapist balm and with a greater concern in shaping an evolving experience of sublimity. A photograph of melting oceanic glaciers today has wider implications than does Caspar David Friedrich’s nineteenth century painting of craggy ice flows. While both are firmly rooted in sublime ideas of immanent collapse and implications of mortality, a current image of arctic ice adrift alludes to the role of homo colossus in hastening extinction while the latter suggests merely what the forces of nature can wreak upon us. The Age of the Anthropocene has greatly broadened the parameters of the sublime experience. “Ultimately the sublime”, Simon Morley writes, “is an experience looking for a context.” Many categories of sublimity have emerged: the abstract, technological, industrial, capitalistic, social, natural, territorial sublime to name a few. There are no neutral landscape representations. To suggest that we can “map” what formerly was deemed too vast, unpresentable and indeterminate or lying beyond our perceptual limits for us to comprehend, seems to directly contradict the original definitions of the term. Rather, this mapping refers to how we will negotiate the wild terrain of climate change and an ungovernable technology. Whereas in previous centuries viewers could theoretically psychologically distance themselves from feelings of self annihilation while confronting a threatening natural spectacle, today humanity is unable to extricate itself physically or mentally from the immanent destruction wrought by global warming. Human hubris and stubborn progressive/utopian narratives still support the belief that technology can save us from climate catastrophe. However, think of the endless loop that has been created when science contributes to overpopulating the planet with life saving drugs and abundant food thus hastening the end of the planet’s carrying capacity.
The contemporary landscapists in this exhibition are taking a different tack. They are focusing instead on remaining with these threshold experiences to examine our complicated and conflicted relationship to the landscape in contrast to removing our gaze or spectatorship upon terrifying situations. Boundaries are increasingly dissolved between subject and object, challenging the position of the viewer to become part of a constantly expanding field of engagement. Perhaps it’s closer to learning to “think like a mountain” as Aldo Leopold wrote. The approach is less reliant on scientific acumen and more concerned with “staying with the trouble” eco writer Donna Haraway tells us.
The artists in “Mapping the Sublime”, then, are working with this acknowledgement of living with extreme precarity unassuaged by comforting thoughts of retreating to one’s living room to nourish thoughts of transcendence and transformation. They are bearing witness to a planet that is traumatized -- oceans and lands that are poisoned with plastic, toxins fouling the air, aggressions into crucial biospheres that cannot heal quickly if ever. Their artworks do not shy away from confronting future realities that result from climate change: wars, hyper surveillance, displacements, racial and ethnic tensions, pollution, pandemics, and shortages. Acutely attuned to the fact that we will have to coexist with the results of our behaviors, they are imaginatively mapping the way, often enlisting beauty as an ally. “Art is a thought from the future” eco philosopher Timothy Morton writes, and a critical means for understanding the period he describes as “the beginning after the end”. We have met the sublime, and it is us.
Night, 2019, photo-collage, pastel, pencil, on wood panel, 84” x110”
My art practice is informed by my own immigration history from South America into the US in the 1990’s. I use natural imagery such as mountains, icebergs and oceans along with flight plans, maps and human-made structures in my photo-based works to act as metaphors for my personal experience. My work addresses globalization, displacement, and the many other humanitarian crises caused by natural catastrophes and the existing political structures that impact the lives of immigrants.
In my “Iceberg Series”, icebergs represent me as a wanderer – shifting between oceans and continents. I frequently use color manipulation to achieve a surreal mood within the natural landscape to create a child-like sense of wonder for viewers of my artworks.
At the core of my works is a deep search to find a new place in the world to call home and to regain a sense of belonging in the midst of global catastrophes, environmental disasters, a pandemic and the omnipresent evil of racial discrimination.
Luciana Abait was born in Argentina and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. Her multimedia works deal with climate change, environmental awareness, immigration, displacement, assimilation and adaptation. Abait’s artworks have been shown widely in the United States, Europe, Latin America and Asia in solo shows in galleries, museums and international art fairs. Recent projects have been shown at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the Palm Springs Museum of Art. She has completed numerous public art commissions and installations and is the recipient of the 2016 Santa Monica Individual Artist Fellowship. Abait is a resident artist of 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica.
The Map is a Legend (Equidistant Inland Empire), 2018, mixed media
7 ft. diameter sculptural table showing the Inland Empire and the San Andreas Fault Line as a painted and incised digital map. The tabletop displays framed photos of the area taken by community members. Abeles then located each site and its sister site that is equidistant from the center-point, a spot along the Fault Line.
Kim Abeles and the following 24 individuals:
liz gonzález + Cynthia (González) Duran
Mary Manusos and Mel Durand
Alfred “Freezy” Rice
Bisecting the Inland Empire map is the San Andreas Fault Line, and its topography embraces the table’s periphery. At the very center is a rock that was literally pulled from the fault’s crevice. Scattered throughout are souvenirs from places that local scholars suggested as optimum centers of the IE: measurable, historical, or meaningful center-points. The numbered SITE photographs were given to me by visitors to the region or those who grew up there. Framed memories of childhood tenderness, the driving lesson in a parking lot, or the family cabin in the first snow, are placed adjacent to scenes of vistas and summits. The personal and the iconic live with each depiction. And next, I pinpointed the location of each photograph. Moving through the center fault, directly opposite and equidistant, I took the second photograph, the SISTER SITE. The mathematical measuring on the map transformed into unexpected and harrowing journeys where landscape is a chance configuration in time and space.
Kim Abeles explores society, science literacy, feminism, and environment, creating projects with science and natural history museums, health departments, air pollution control agencies, and the National Park Service. NEA-funded projects involved a residency at the Institute of Forest Genetics and Valises for Camp Ground in collaboration with Camp 13, a group of female prison inmates who fight wildfires. Permanent out- door works include Walk a Mile in My Shoes, based on the shoes of the Civil Rights marchers and local activists. Abeles has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, J. Paul Getty Trust Fund, and her process documents are ar- chived at the Center for Art + Environment. Her work is in public collections including MOCA, LACMA, CAAM, Berkeley Art Museum, and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency. Recent publications about her projects include New York Times, Los Angeles Times, American Scientist Magazine, and the forthcoming book, Social Practice: Technologies for Change, Routledge Press.
My process involves problem-solving, not solving problems.
I am preoccupied with the nature around us and within us, with the history we have made and that we continue to make. It is a history defined not by time, but by energy -- as is nature, and as is art. I dot not just produce objects, but explore phenomena, whether they occur in the world or in my dreams, as thoughts in my mind or as rocks on the ground.
I determine my compositional elements spontaneously, combining means and modalities, extracting, articulating, secreting, and re-exposing new identities — identities that are estranged but somehow connected.
I refuse to simplify the world through categorization into kinds of things, or kinds of art. There are no categories for me, only experiences.
Fatemeh Burnes is a visual artist, educator, curator, and activist based in Los Angeles. After studies in her native Iran and in Europe, she received her BFA and MFA in studio arts and completed additional graduate studies in art history and exhibition design. Over the last three decades, Burnes has exhibited nationally and inter-nationally, curated over 100 exhibitions, authored numerous publications, and conducted art education documentaries. Burnes’ artwork focuses on nature and human nature, looking at modern events and tragedies, ecological and social, and how those events manifest in contemporary life. Her most current work has taken an autobiographical turn in the context of her experience as an immigrant and as a woman.
Finding Home, 2021, oil and collage on canvas, 46” x 46”
Once the Ocean Floor, Series #108, Ladakh India, Photograph, 2016, Dye-sublimation print on aluminum, 30” x 45” Courtesy of Haines Gallery
Since the mid-1980s I have visited the Indian region of Ladakh high in the Himalayan range. In 2007 I started taking particular interest in the rock surfaces. (All these photographs were done with a view camera; either 8 x 10, or in more recent years, 4 x 5.) A good number of these images were taken on the very few roads that exist in this area, many of which are in river canyons. To construct these narrow roads the rock face is frequently blasted. These pictures capture the engineering as well as the natural formations of uplift and erosion.
For me, it is astounding to remember that all this rock once existed as sea bed. Hence, my project title, Once the Ocean Floor. As we live our current lives, with their dramas and activities, we often forget the natural world. Walks in nature remind us on a personal scale, but these mountains are wonderous in their massiveness, literally breath-taking heights, and in the intricacy of their layers of time and substance.
Linda Connor received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design and her Masters degree from the Institute of Design, IIT, in Chicago. In 1969 she joined the photography faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute where she continues teaching. Known for her photographs of landscape and landscape in relationship to the sacred from many parts of the world, her work has been exhibited widely both in the U.S. and internation- ally. Connor is the founder of the nonprofit organization, PhotoAlliance. She is represented by the Haines Gallery, San Francisco and has published Odyssey with Chronicle Books, San Francisco in 2008 and Constellations, as well as Ornaments with Datz Press, Seoul, Korea in 2020.
Dry Season #2, 2012, ink, water, and salt on paper. 40” x60”
The work for this exhibition is from a project called "Rituals of Water". It is an exploration of the allegory of water in the context of the African Diaspora. The paintings are segregated into four thematic sections: Transition (Middle passage), Transformation (Baptism), Resistance (Civil Rights), and Dispersal (Hurricane Katrina). The two works included in Mapping the Sublime, are from the Resistance section of the project. Also known as the "Dry Seasons", all of these paintings are based on archival images from the civil rights movement where water cannons were used to assault peaceful demonstrators. To illustrate the violence, and associate the medium with the conceptual ideas, each composition uses ink, water, and salt in structured and intuitive ways to create scenes of figures simultaneously composed of and impacted by water. Each piece is accompanied by text that is either a synonym or description of water to define the tension of the moment.
Rodney Ewing (b. 1964, Baton Rouge, LA) is a visual artist, whose drawings, installations, and mixed media works focus on his need to intersect body and place, memory and fact, and to re-examine human histories, cultural conditions, and trauma. His work has been exhibited at The Museum of the African Diaspora (San Francisco), The Drawing Center (NY), SF Museum of Modern Art, Jack Shainman Gallery - The School (NY), and Rena Bransten Gallery (SF), the Veterans Museum (Chicago), and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (Los Angeles). Ewing is a grantee of the San Francisco Art Commission Individual Artist Grant (2016-2020) and his work has recently been included in the collection of Tufts University Art Gallery. Ewing received his BFA at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and his MFA at West Virginia University.
Corrupted Surveillance Data, 2015, ink on paper, graphic music score interventions over Richard Misrach border photographs, Ed.1/10, 36” x 44.5”
“A musical score can be defined as a set of codified symbols written on a (two dimensional) piece of paper or any other readable surface to be translated into sound events to be reproduced in real time."
My close relationship, as a composer, with the evolution, experimentation and innovation of alternative graphic musical scores written in the last half of the twentieth century fueled my interest towards the endless symbolic possibilities offered through interpretation of a universe of visual languages, written symbols, data and encrypted codes to be re-codified as space and time based sonic events.
Beginning with my works on phonetics, linguistics, automatic writing and communication lost in translation, my audio/sound piece Open Letter, plays with the idea of cultural miscommunication and the role of ego boundaries in an age of automatic translation and the use of artificial intelligence for communication.
The Border Cantos project (2012 -20219) in collaboration with Richard Misrach allowed me to translate all kinds of border data into time based music notation. Through all these years, I have been configuring a borderless art form which challenges the limits between, politics meaning, sound and site.
Printing on humanitarian beacon flags and intervening Misrach’s landscape border photographs initiated a dialogue merging the visual and the sonic. My graphic scores incite a dialogue with Richard Misrach’s border landscape photographs, border patrol surveillance data, hieroglyphic languages found in ancient border caves and data spreadsheets and lists of unidentified corps gathered by humanitarian organizations. These graphic scores defy the borders between the visual and the “sounding” braking the physical limits of time, space, politics and cultural identity.
Post Mexican, Experimental composer, sonic architect, performance artist and visual media artist, Guillermo Galindo redefines the conventional limits between music, the art of music composition, and the intersections between art disciplines, politics, humanitarian issues, spirituality and social awareness.
Galindo’s graphic scores and three-dimensional sculptural cyber-totemic sonic objects have been shown at major museums and art biennials in America, Europe and Asia including (amongst others) documenta14 (2017), Pacific Standard Time (2017). Galindo’s work is in the permanent collections of The Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas, The Cornell Fine Arts museum in Florida, LACMA in Los Angeles, California and The National Gallery in Washington D.C.
Russian Drone Painting No.2 (Siege of Damascus, 2015), 2019-21, Oil on canvas, 72” x 96”
In “Mapping The Sublime”, Gipe features his latest work, the “Russian Drone Paintings”. He employs the visual style of “Manifest Destiny” canvasses of the 19th Century, in a reference to the Industrial Revolution - the historical origin of all our ecological peril. The image sources, however, are contemporary, based on screenshots of drone footage posted the RT news service run by the Russian government. The “Russian Drone Paintings” engage issues like surveillance, climate change, and the Anthropocene, seen through the lens of our global “adversary”, in images of extraction mines, ghost towns, cities abandoned to radioactivity, bombardments, and other traumatic evidence of humanity’s relentless intervention into Nature. This exhibition includes an image of the Mir diamond mine in Siberia, the world’s largest pit, which was abandoned a decade ago; and, “Damascus, 2015”, which is a frozen moment from Russia’s vicious bombing of Syria (which functioned as a “trial run” for weapons used in the recent Ukraine invasion).
b. Baltimore, Maryland, 1962. Lives and works in Los Angeles, CA and Tucson, AZ. Lawrence Gipe began his career in Los Angeles, CA with a series of painting and drawing exhibitions addressing the themes of industrialization, and the false rhetoric of ”progress”. His practice is an ongoing investigation into coded and often culturally irredeemable images, gleaned from decades of seeking out ideologically-tainted photo annuals, archives, and vintage magazines dealing with energy, business and the military industrial complex. Gipe has had over 60 solo exhibitions in galleries and museums in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Munich, Berlin, Düsseldorf (Kunstverein Düsseldorf) and Beijing (Tsinghua University). Currently, he splits his time between his studio in Los Angeles, CA, and Tucson, AZ, where he works as an Associate Professor of Studio Art at the University of Arizona. Gipe received two NEA Individual Fellowship Grants (Painting, 1989 and Works on Paper, 1996), and mounted a mid-career survey, 3 Five-Year Plans: Lawrence Gipe, 1990-2005 in 2006 at the University Art Museum of ASU, Tempe, Arizona.
Last One 26, 2014, acrylic on canvas, 60” x 72”
Dimitri Kozyrev's work in “Mapping the Sublime” deals with the tectonic, paradigm shifting changes of revolution and war, natural and human created disasters, geopolitical standoffs that are threats to our landscape, our stability, our health, and our sanity. The source material for “Lost Edge” is archival photos of soldiers fighting in The Winter War between Russia and Finland (1939-1940) and images of ruins of the once mighty fortifications of the Mannerheim Line, built to protect Finland from the advances of the Soviet military. The work reflects on how humans attempt to introduce a type of safety and bulwark against hostility, violence, mayhem and terror. And how nature ultimately reclaims these attempts.
At its core, Dimitri Kozyrev’s work has always been about the struggle to manage change. Kozyrev uses modernist, constructivist methods of rearranging pictorial space to capture change, holding and compressing change into a single visual moment so it can be remembered and studied. The work portrays how violence and savagery leave their marks, and yet, with time, these landmarks fall into the earth and the change they witnessed fade from living memory as nature creeps in to heal the scars.
Dimitri Kozyrev was born in Leningrad, USSR and moved to United States in 1991. Kozyrev received his MFA from University of California, Santa Barbara in 2000 and his BFA from Ohio University in 1997. Since then, Kozyrev has had multiple solo shows in Los Angeles, New York and across the United States and internationally. He has completed residencies at Art Omi and the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. For the past twenty years, he was a Visiting Professor at UC Santa Barbara, CA, a Professor of Art at The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and a Visiting Professor at St. Edwards University, Austin, TX. He is currently in Salt Lake City where he keeps a full-time studio practice.
Tear x Scape / Terrorscape 6 (Green Monster), 2019, Photograph, 24” x 27”
Ann Le has always dealt with identity, culture, family history, and the duality of becoming Vietnamese-American in her work. Inspired by the cultural contexts in her life, she correlates the artificial with remembrances of generational trauma. Sentiment is vital in her works as she questions her personal experiences to construct imposing art. She excavates her lineage by revisiting her family’s experiences by using personal and found images to reconstruct slippages in time and history. As layers of images are stacked upon one another, Le travels through time commenting on the idea of home, displacement, separation, and how we embrace and conquer loss. Tragic and Poetic composites are pieced together to unravel narratives which places her Vietnamese-American perspective into a contemporary landscape.
Ann Le was born in San Diego, CA and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. Ann Le has always dealt with identity, culture, family history, and the duality of becoming Vietnamese-American in her work. Inspired by the cultural contexts in her life, she correlates the artificial with remembrances of generational trauma. Sentiment is vital in her works as she questions her personal experiences to construct imposing art. She excavates her lineage by revisiting her family’s experiences by using personal and found images to reconstruct slippages in time and history. As layers of images are stacked upon one another, Le travels through time commenting on the idea of home, displace- ment, separation, and how we embrace and conquer loss. Tragic and Poetic composites are pieced together to unravel narratives which places her Vietnamese-American perspective into a contemporary landscape.
I have engaged ideas of the sublime in most of my painting practice over the last 40 years—first in epic scaled panoramas composed of thousands of appropriated landscape images and more recently in large, richly detailed still life paintings composed of accumulations of found cast-offs from our hyper consumptive culture. These paintings express the tensions between the global desire for abundance via cheap fast goods and the catastrophic effects on the natural world. For this exhibition rather than depicting piles of discarded objects collected on my daily walks through Los Angeles, I have painted the disappearing wildlife and landscapes—such as Arctic glaciers and rainforests-- that have traditionally been the subjects of much landscape art on blocks of found Styrofoam shipping packaging. A second work is comprised of hundreds of crumpled “trashed” landscape photographs of wild places crammed into a glass vitrine. Such artworks imply we are the perpetrators of the earth’s destruction.
Constance Mallinson is a Los Angeles based painter, writer and curator. During her fifty year career, she has exhibited widely and her paintings are included in the collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, The San Jose Museum, the Pomona Art Museum, the National Academy of Sciences. She has taught all levels of studio art and criticism at the major colleges and universities in Southern California and has written for many art publications such as Art in America, Xtra, Artillery, the Times Quotidian, and numerous catalog essays for university art museums. Her most recent curatorial projects have included Urbanature at Art Center College of Design, The Feminine Sublime at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, and Small is Beautiful at the Irvine Fine Arts Center. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a COLA fellowship. Twenty-four of her artworks are installed at the Bergamot Station Metro Station.
It’s Amazon, Stupid, 2022, oil on found styrofoam, dimensions variable
Future Villages, Tracy Hills, CA, 2021, Silver chloride contact print, 11” x 14”
Tracy Hills is a new master-planned community being built on the former dry grazing fields that slope down to the flat desert floor of the San Joaquin Valley, 45 minutes east of San Francisco. Even in the midst of a climate crisis, rising housing costs are pushing families into far flung “exurbs” like Tracy Hills, which exist beyond the suburbs of a metropolitan area. The American dream of owning a single-family home means these mega sprawl develop-ments continue to be built despite state and local officials’ recognition that they only exacerbate climate change and housing problems.
Ryan McIntosh is a Los Angeles-based artist. He received his MFA from Rhode Island School of Design, and his BFA from University of Arizona. Ryan began photographing at the age of sixteen when given a vintage 4x5 Speed Graphic view camera. Realizing that small format cameras were not coducive to his image visualization,he acquired an 8x10 view camera that he still uses exclusively today. He has committed himself to the masterful craft of producing only handmade silver gelatin photographs in a traditional darkroom. Nearly twenty years since making his first photograph, Ryan continues working primarily in the natural landscape, with an ever-growing level of concern and awareness towards the landscape and how it’s conveyed today to fit into the contemporary consciousness and evolving dialogue. His primary focus in photography is exploring mankind’s impact on the natural environment and the relationship humans have with the remaining wilderness on our planet.
Liz Miller Kovacs
Braunkohle Venus, 2021, 4-channel video, 4 minutes 22 seconds
My studio practice is a search for meaning in a time when image eclipses reality, producing an increasingly inhospitable and toxic habitat, reflecting upon the Anthropocene era and how it is changing our psychological and physiological conditions. My work combines exploration of materials and performative acts, encompassing photography, sculpture, and video. The pieces shown here are part of a series of interventions where I explore the earth's scars––I research landscapes where industries of extraction have altered the landscape and document my experience of these places. The bizarre, hostile locations are often hidden from public view. They are excavated, depleted, and polluted by industry. These photos and videos also look at the relationship between capitalism's effect on the land and the body. In the images, the body is shrouded in a membrane, protecting it from the uncomfortable conditions that humans have created. The video further incorporates audio and video footage of machinery extracting brown coal and an onsite performance intervention at the Wezlow Süd open-pit mine in eastern Germany. I see parallels between how our culture exploits nature and the objecthood of the feminine. Yet, despite the negative consequences of industrialization and consumption, I am fascinated by the aesthetic of the Anthropocene. I aim to create images and objects that invite contemplation of contradictory conditions that structure our reality.
Liz Miller Kovacs is an artist and filmmaker based in Berlin. Miller Kovacs’ interdisciplinary studio practice is rooted in queer punk, post-feminism, and activist performance. She has exhibited her works and performed in major art centres and galleries around North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Her videos have recently been included in the Untitled Art Fair Special Projects, Alicante Video Art Festival, L.A. Mise-en-scène, Video Art Today, Pink Noise, and the San Francisco Art Institute Film Festival. She is a member of the international art movement, Extraction: Art on the Edge of the Abyss. An Alumni of the San Francisco Art Institute where she completed her MFA in New Genres, Miller Kovacs also completed a Visual Arts Ph.D. at Sydney College of the Arts in Australia and was awarded both the IPRS and IPA international scholarships.
Deborah Oropallo & Andy Rappaport
CRUDE, 2021, single channel video with two channel sound, edition of 8 + 3 A.P.
The four videos produced in collaboration with Deborah Oropallo and musician and composer Andy Rappaport feature hundreds of layered images of impacted natural environments (from polluted oceans to the fires of California), an amalgamation of source materials that reflects Oropallo's deep research into – and unease with – the proliferation of visual information in news media.
Oropallo - "we consume and dismiss images so rapidly" that viewers have little time to reflect on geopolitical events and crises as they occur.
By extension, Oropallo/Rappaport’s video montages are an attempt to "slow down" that rapid feed of information, and to give viewers the time and space to reflect on troubles in the world around us. Rappaport’s complex sound design aims to create an auditory landscape that is both familiar and unsettled.
Deborah Oropallo’s exhibition history of monographic exhibits include: Fine Arts Museums of SF, CA, the Boise Art Museum, Boise, ID, Montalvo Art Center, Saratoga, CA, the San Jose Museum of Art, CA, The Triton Museum, Santa Clara, CA.
Group exhibitions include: The Whitney Biennial, NY, NY, SFMOMA, SF, CA, the Corcor- an Gallery of Art, Washington DC, the Jewish Museums of NY, NY, and SF, CA.
Collections include: SFMOMA CA, the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, NY, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA, the Museum of Modern Art, NY, NY, and the Anderson Collection at Stanford University, CA. The Berkeley Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA, the Kramlich Collection, SF, CA, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, The Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV and 21c Museum Hotel, Louisville, KY.
Awards Include: NEA, Engelhard Award, Artspace Award, Fleishhacker Foundation Eureka Fellowship, two Pollock-Krasner Foundation grants.
Andy Rappaport’s exhibition history includes editing and sound design for 13 videos in collaboration with Deborah Oropallo.
Installations include: Digital Nature II at the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Pasadena CA, Natural Discourse at the Sagehen Creek Field Station, Lake Tahoe, CA, “FLIGHT”, the Schneider Museum of Art, Ashland, OR, “MONUMENTS”, Minnesota St Project, SF, CA, and “PROTOTYPES”, Converge 45, Portland, OR, “GOING BALLISTIC”, the Berkeley Museum and Pacific Film Archive, “FLIGHT” Special Projects Miami Art Basel, Untitled, Miami, FL, ”FLIGHT” The Triton Museum, Santa Clara, CA.
Collections include: The Berkeley Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA, the Kramlich Collection, SF, CA, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, The Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV and 21c Museum Hotel, Louisville, KY.
Drought, 2021, film + composition, duration 1:14:28 min
Drought is a 10 year durational, compositional poem. It is an 80 minute long film with narrative soundscape. It serves to disentangle psychic trauma on the collective female body through mythology, hypnotic sound, movement and landscape- a portal between the prophetic and the real.
The audio within the piece is using repetitive vocal harmonics to alter brain patterns from alpha to theta states, linked to 'implicit learning'. In this altered state of consciousness the excavation of violent narrative is performed, as a mechanism to engage the subconscious in processing the experience of the body, and to integrate through a narrative framework. It explores the scientific nature of story and ritual, the sound moves between harmonics and discomfort operating as a shamanic guide - as the narrative abstracts, and moves between time.
The visual narrative is an exploration of anchoring the body in landscape. The starting point is Waun Mawn. An ancient neolithic stone in Pembrokeshire, Wales - which served as the catalyst for a pilgrimage, for the piece to find its point of integration from sound, to body, to place. The site is thought to be the original site for Stonehenge, before the stones were later moved, and dates back to a period in history when the first recorded myth (the epic of Gilgamesh) is recorded. It begins in the 'unseen places' - and invites the body to find relationship with itself, echoing the poetry in the physical, as a means to provide another lens for subconscious, to conscious integration.
Radford began writing this piece ten years ago, when abstracted language and poetry opened as a portal for her to process and integrate severe trauma. The Drought is a meta-physical place, a mental landscape in which the wounded part of her subconscious lie in hiding. It is a place that became real, through its effect on the body and central nervous system. This piece became a laboratory for understanding the somatic relationship between mind, place and time through sound, physical integration and psycho-geography. The mythology served as a reference point, in which she was able to process the experience through the lens of a timeless female body, and invite that body in to her own as an attempt to disentangle collective psychic trauma and integrate a subconscious and physical wound.
A 2020 MFA graduate from San Francisco Art Institute, Kit Radford (Kate Hyatt) was exquisitely unique with her background in theater and oration. Her propensity to reach back to ancient myth for her inspiration exemplified an insightful sense of depth for interpretation and a commitment to providing a foundational context for her personal explorations as an artist. Kit’s elemental and powerful use of land and seascapes brought an impactful visual and visceral intensity to her work. Kit’s process involved exploring notions of embodiment and multi-sensory engagement using listening as a physical experience with a focus psycho-geography, and the body as instrument or antennae as a tool for navigation, with sound as its main resource. Major influences included mythology, folklore, time, history, anthropology, physics, biology, philosophy, and technology. In 2021, Kit’s film Bloom was featured for SF Artists Alumni’s Untitled Art Fair Miami Beach Special Project Three Turns Miami.
Object, Window, Both, Neither XLIX, 2020, graphite on paper, 96” x 60”
My work is architecturally inspired and is based off of forms and materials that were historically utilized to herald utopic or political philosophies of the American West. I manipulate these forms sculpturally and two-dimensionally to examine spatial shifts that play with the form as both an object and a window, echoing the original intention of the forms as both representation of an idea and a physical object.
The materials within these works are modern and mundane: graphite, cinderblock, canvas, concrete, clay etcetera, and are implemented to serve as a vehicle to overlay a modern philosophy on top of modern materials. I'm interested in using these very elemental tools to create monuments of presence and absence.
Aili Schmeltz is a sculptor and painter that splits her time in between Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, CA. She studied at UCLA, earned her MFA from the University of Arizona, and a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute. She has exhibited nationally at galleries such as Edward Cella Art and Architecture, ACME, Commonwealth and Council, and Pasadena Museum of California Art in California, Friedman Benda and Jen Bekman in New York, and Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson; and internationally in cities such as Berlin, Tokyo, Barcelona, London, and Zurich. Schmeltz has been awarded grants such as the Pollock Krasner Grant, California Community Foundation Grant, and Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant. Residencies attended include the Bemis Center, Sculpture Center, Vermont Studio Center, Scuola Internazionale di Grafica (Venice, Italy), Espronceda Center for Art and Culture (Barcelona), Takt Kunstprojektraum (Berlin), and Babayan Cultural House (Cappadocia, Turkey). Aili is the Founder of Outpost Projects and teaches at Otis College of Art and Design.
29 Humans (Smugglers) and 12 Horses, 1-Week Interval, Patagonia Mountains, AZ, 2019, archival inkjet print, edition 2 of 5 + 2 AP, 36” x 36”
Seasonal rainfall carves washes through the US/Mexico borderlands. Rains end and water evaporates, yet these channels occupy strata both visible and invisible. Currents rearrange themselves and flow below ground, less susceptible to changes above. Humans and wildlife move through this region similarly, forming a complex network of fluctuating corridors across two countries. Political, economic, and environmental forces require them to adapt; their movements are fleeting and mostly hidden. Scientists and government agencies observe and analyze these passageways from afar. Their intentions vary, yet their tactics and data sets often overlap and mirror each other. Despite tools of enhanced vision, their capacity to see and understand is clouded by layers of detachment. Combining remote sensing imagery with my landscape photographs, I collapse intimate and distanced depictions of the border landscape. A river is revealed, suggesting continuous circulation beyond our unaided vision.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Alex Turner combines imaging technologies to highlight sociopolitical and environmental concerns along the U.S./Mexico border. He was awarded the University of Arizona Carson Scholarship and N-Gen Sonoran Desert Researchers Grant for his interdisciplinary research and artwork. Most recently he was named to the Silver Eye Center’s inaugural 2021 Silver List and Photolucida’s 2020 Critical Mass Top 50, won First Place in LensCulture’s Black and White Photo Awards, received SPE’s Innovation in Imaging Award and was a finalist for both the Bird in Flight Prize and a Lucie Foundation scholarship. His work has been exhibited internationally and featured in publications including Lenscratch, Fisheye, Der Greif, C41, F-Stop, Tique, Fraction Magazine and Terrain. He holds an MFA from the University of Arizona and currently lives in Los Angeles, California.
Sense of Place 106, 2021, acrylic and toner on canvas, 43.25” x 40”
Rodrigo Valenzuela’s work in photography, video, and installation is rooted in the contradictory genres of documentary and fiction. In New Land, Valenzuela presents a suite of newly commissioned desert images on canvas that address the intersecting ideas of home, man-made borders, and dystopia. The exhibition also features three videos that focus on individual experiences of labor and immigration, calling attention to the limits of American democracy.
Born in Chile in 1982, Rodrigo Valenzuela received degrees from the University of Washington (MFA), Evergreen State College (BA) & the University of Chile (BFA). He has presented solo exhibitions at New Museum, Lancaster Museum of Art & History, Orange County Museum of Art, and Portland Art Museum and group exhibitions at the Phillips Collection, The Drawing Center, Frye Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, and Henry Art Gallery. He was awarded residencies at Light Work, Syracuse, MacDowell Colony, Core Program, Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Kala Art Institute & Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture.
In 2021, Valenzuela was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship Award and a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship. He received a Joan Mitchell Painters & Sculptors Grant and Arts Innovator Award. His work is in the collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, & Frye Art Museum.
Valenzuela lives and works Los Angeles, CA.
Beth Davila Waldman
La Ocupación No. 1, 2018, acrylic paint and pigment on tarp mounted on panel, 60” x 86.5”
Beth Davila Waldman is a cross-disciplinary artist using photography, painting, assemblage and installation. Her work explores the impact of socio-political trends on cultural landscapes, often through imagery laden with indicators of economic and social status, presented in a manner that emulates the sheer stress of imposed change. Waldman’s constructed vistas re-conceive the notion of sanctuary amidst the realities of colonization and invite meditations on civil access.
Waldman uses commercial white tarp as her canvas echoing found materials with a contemporary anthropological context witnessed and documented globally as well as locally throughout the streets of Los Angeles. Through paint, she adds water emerging from the sky to generate indications of an oasis of salvaged materials to reverberate shifts to local landscapes as natural catalysts for potential humanscapes. Her work serves as actualizations of the Anthropocene on industrial, commercial and domestic scales.
Born in Princeton, NJ in 1975, Beth Davila Waldman pursued her career in the arts initially at Wellesley College where she launched her careers with her senior thesis Transposing Time and Culture: Personal and Abstract Interpretations of Inca and Pre-Incan Artwork. She continued her commitment to exploring site, colonization and culture at San Francisco Art Institute with a second degree where her work was recognized with the 2004 annual Harold E. Weiner Memorial Sculpture Award. Waldman has been awarded residencies at 18th Street Art Residency, Kala Art Institute, Playa Institute, and Edition/Basel. Recent invitation lectures have included at Photo Alliance and Irvine Fine Arts Center. Waldman’s work was part of the group exhibition the de Young OPEN at the de Young Museum, the Codex Foundation’s 2021 Extraction Catalog and the 2021 Untitled Art Fair Special Projects Miami Beach.
Waldman’s studio is currently based in Los Angeles, CA.
Concrete Vessel 55, 2020, photograph, 60” x 75”
These photographs of empty skateparks depict complex, poured concrete formations created by carving into and excavating large open areas of land within city parks. The refined spaces are born out of conceptions of the various curvilinear shapes of ocean waves and other hilly natural landscape forms, but frozen and cemented permanently like Brutalist architecture. It is a conceptual point worth emphasizing that the areas are carved into the earth rather than built above. This makes them cavities more than monuments. They appear at first to illustrate the height of form succumbing to function. As photographs, these spaces suggest a more complex and integrated relationship with a history of design, art and architecture. I consider these skateparks as visually and conceptually in dialog with both a history of Brutalist architecture as well as concrete public monuments.
Amir Zaki (born 1974, Beaumont, California) is an American artist based in Southern California. He is best known for “hybridized” photographs using digital and analog technologies that explore the rhetoric of authenticity, vocabulary of document-ary, and acts of looking and constructing images. His work often focuses on the iconography and landscape of Southern California, simultaneously celebrating the banal and vernacular and sub-verting its related mythology. Zaki has exhibited nationally and internationally, and been featured in shows at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Orange County Museum of Art (California Biennial, 2006), California Museum of Photography, and San Jose Museum of Art. His work is held in the public collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Hammer Museum, New Museum, and Whitney Museum, among many, and appears in the anthologies Vitamin Ph (2006), Photography is Magic (by Charlotte Cotton, 2015) and Both Sides of Sunset: Photographing Los Angeles (2015).