Earlier this month, Richard Glasser, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction expressed deep concern about the future of our planet. In his words, “There can be little doubt that 2017 is turning into a year of historic significance in the struggle against climate change. We must realize that these disaster events are not natural phenomena but the result of a built environment which is not fit for purpose and a failure to understand how we are intensifying the cocktail of disaster risk by not adequately addressing poverty, land use, building codes, environmental degradation, population growth in exposed and vulnerable settings and, most fundamentally, greenhouse gas emissions.”
Aptly timed, Launch LA brings us “Reality of Nature.” Curated by Kristine Schomaker, this gripping exhibition features works by a diverse group of Los-Angeles based artists who use their work in an attempt to question our relationship to our current day world where nature remains suspect to man’s ever-present footprint.
While the show features both abstract and figurative works, there is no disconnect between the two. Rather, the dissimilar genres complement each other, evoking divergent aspects characteristic our planet’s everchanging landscape. Virginia Katz’s conceptually based process driven acrylic works on panel, for instance, evoke the imagery of erosional landforms that manifest after years of rain and waterflow. Flesh of Our Flesh, one of two works by the artist on view, reads like a topographical model of the Earth’s outermost crust, revealing of one single instance in a world predisposed to a constant state of flux.
Similarly, Steve Seleska’s work embodies a sculptural saliency that, like Katz’s, evolves organically. The artist’s material exploration is more than evident in Landescapism #7, a unique piece that obliges the curious. Saturated in silver paint, the mixed media work is the product of a blended concoction comprised of oil, acrylic, and resin that Seleska then mingled with an arsenal of chemical compounds. In such, Landescapism #7 reads like the refuse of an old forest fire, complete with burnt branches and bark, swathed in a muddle of old cobwebs and dried pine needles.
Devon Tsuno’s aesthetic also reads abstract, yet his approach is not process driven. To the contrary, each of Tsuno’s aerosol and acrylic paintings involve a tedious process where individual layers of paint are applied after masking a new sequence of tape. Watershed 1 (Los Angeles River) appears alongside two others from his “Watershed” series, which collectively looks at manmade water sources and examines how nature persists despite the barriers that urbanization imposes. Like the reflection of the setting sun atop a rippling river, bright reds and blood oranges glisten like shards of shattered glass against a richly textured surface of beautifully blended blue and green hues.
One mainstay of the California desert is the Joshua tree. For more than 5,000 years, the Mojave’s signature tree has persisted despite the area’s merciless temperatures that easily average over 100 degrees during the summer months. That said, their continued existence now remains threatened with climate change on the rise, a reality that Catherine Ruane invokes in her large-scale drawings. Burn Joshua Burn gives viewers a detailed impression of the tree. Standing 120 inches, the graphite and charcoal work on paper could easily be mistaken for a black and white photograph. Its details are that painstaklingly precise. Yet, Ruane’s choice to omit color from her nature studies is what summons viewers to consider more than just nature’s beauty.
In the centuries-old tradition of botanical art and illustration, created for scientific purposes and, more importantly, maintaining a record of vanishing species, Andrea Bersaglieri has cleverly created a series of oil paintings, each of which delicately render individual plant formations. Not only does the title of Soil Saucer allude to the future, but its depiction of a single species on an uprooted “saucer” of soil speaks to our overarching need to pay more attention to what we have and to preserve that which we haven’t already destroyed.
Works by Terry Arena, Jeanne Dunn, Samantha Fields, Jennifer Gunlock, J.J. L’Heureux, Erika Lizee, Constance Mallinson, and Marie Thibeault are also included in this important show. Located at Launch LA in Los Angeles, “Reality of Nature” will remain on view through September 30th. For additional information, please consult the gallery’s website at www.launchla.org
Thank you for this beautifully written essay about “Reality of Nature.” It is gratifying to know that others understand our art and can connect it so intelligently to the world, in this case to climate change. Since the writer is an artist herself, she is in touch with how each artist is looking for and using visual language to address compelling concerns. Much appreciated!