by Shraddha NairMay 07, 2022
The in-betweenness inhabits a liminal space - away from the point of origins, yet a step removed from the arrival to the next spot of habitation. Laura Lima’s exhibition Six Feet Over at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Los Angeles, is an exploration of the question: what meaning does the idea of incomplete transition holds for the perpetual dwellers. The common thread of ‘transitory moments’ forge a relationship between the diverse body of work - living matter, nature, and materials suspended in fluctuation – of the exhibition.
In an interview with STIR, Lima explains that the title of the exhibition, Six Feet Over, is an allusion to the idea of life, continuity and transformation, “That is why I think of fluctuation, a state of variation that drives change. Fluctuation also suggests that things have a certain fragility and ability to be affected. Levianes works are waiting to be gardened by the dry ice that composes them, their image is never the same after that. Communal Nests are made of the same material as trees, braided leaves, straw, and sticks. They pass through the human hand, coming from “nature” and can return to it, with materials of the same constitution, and will mimic the forest and the lives that inhabit them. They propose a political idea of building society, without conservative determinations. The choice of animals, for example, is a radical option that involves considering the 'policies in the idea of rationality and irrationality' implied in the processes of existence."
As a reconnoiter, Lima visually translates the conceptual idea of shifting states to the materiality of the sculptures only to invite the viewers to absorb and gauge the fragile state of being. The woven Communal Nests punctuates the main area of the gallery. In doing so, the artist creates a community for the imagined birds, dotted with perches and ornamental architecture. The series of nests turn into a site to ascertain the practice of the multiple family constructions led by the communities of birds. Lima further explains, “The ethereal spaces between the works brought by the smoke and the wait for animals to inhabit the houses built from communal nests are constitutive elements of the work, which are given as part of them. Yet, without, however, being absolutely handed over to the spectator.”
Along with the nests are the continuously changing Levianes works made of transparent fabric and dry ice. The viewers have to reorient the function of their visual sensory system as they proceed towards the dark spaces of the back gallery from the space of light. The dark Leviane works are put under the spotlights, recreating a mysterious and sinister mood. The engagement between the concepts of gravity and density is realised as soon as the fragments of dry ice evaporate from the pores of lightweight fiber constructions. For Lima, when the gallery attendant refreshes the dry ice every few hours during the exhibition, it becomes an act to activate the space and bring an unpredictable element into the work.
The installation draws reference to the history of landscape painting - Lima uses the smoke as a painting tool to turn the colour and details of the pieces foggy. The shadows simulate the painterly atmospheric qualities. If chemically and physically, the traditional oil paintings change gradually, Lima accelerates this process with the use of dry ice.
The four works from the artist’s Tailor Shop installation are on view at the front gallery. For the fabric installation, Lima hired professional tailors to translate the drawings she made of friends, family, historical figures, and people who have inspired her. The viewers swiftly watch the tailors in their workshop as they metamorphose the drawing into the fabric vestments. Each portrait was a fine illustration of the deep geometry, reflecting the unique personality of the individual. But Lima succinctly mentions, “The tailor's portraits are also not fully shown in the way they are displayed, there are details behind the works that the spectator visiting the exhibition is not fully aware of.”
Lima informs how she works with the presence of living beings in her works, whether with their concrete presence or the relationships created from them. She illustrates this by citing the works Retratos da Alfaiataria, made by tailors, “The ways to show this work are when they are being made (for example, at the Hammer Museum’s Witch Hunt exhibition 2021) and then, in the way they are presented in Six Feet Over, already finalised in their conception and realisation. The relation of works, creation and poetics implied in this work, when undressing themselves as a process and its completion, are given as an opportunity for the spectator to perceive his layers of existence.”
Like Lima talks about the manifold existences, the works installed at the gallery anchor multiple views: the perspective of the audience shift as they move around the sculptures. The participatory nature of the exhibition keeps the viewers engaged with the sculptures to lend a multifaceted understanding as if no bracket could contain an adequate meaning.
The exhibition Six Feet Over is on view at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Los Angeles, until January 29, 2022.