While contemporary culture is bombarded with images, an artist's preoccupation still lies in translating abstract ideas into the material world. The featured artists wrestle with transforming the mundane into the metaphysical while pointing out the redemptive quality of everyday things. Working within the traditions of photography, sculpture, installation and painting, the selected work displays a yearning for the concrete while reflecting on the transitory and ephemeral nature of our surroundings. Despite the diverse media and content, these four artists pay close attention to surface, texture and the inherent colors of their materials. The practice of creating in of itself becomes a meditation on the actual world, while the physical materials that each artist employs turn out to be the thing carrying the abstract.
In her interdisciplinary studio practice Lucy Kim navigates the gap between the persuasiveness of consumer culture and the literal traps of visual communication. Drawing her inspirations from such diverse sources as legal transcripts, advertisements, death penalty cases and window displays, Kim creates paintings, sculptures, videos and site specific installations out of aluminum foil impressions of everyday objects and surfaces. In her piece The Necklace, Kim molded a head and bust of a mannequin, painted it trompe l'oeil and then crushed the foil cast by embedding it in a concrete block. Through crumpling the flimsy foil under the heavy concrete pour, the bored and wistful look in the model's eyes is transformed into a ghoulish parody of glamour and desire. Kim's interpretations of consumerism have a whimsical, uncanny frankness, while her own interest in the stuff as raw material is far more ambivalent than a first glance suggests.
Sakura Maku's paintings, prints and sculptures burst into the viewer's space with unabashed enthusiasm. Born in Japan and raised in the States, Maku's work is inspired by comic books, set design, theater and fashion. Indulging in color and playfulness, Maku's practice seeks to establish a physicality that resonates with a disco masquerade just as much as it does with a secret fear buried underneath all the hilarity. In her painting Perm, an image of a bird of prey staring bluntly at the viewer is silk screened beneath a field of colorful stripes and fuzzy, spray-painted squiggles. Her use of ready-made materials such as fabrics, prints and plastics, further conveys a desire to incorporate the dizzying world of neon signs into the conceptual sphere of her practice.
S. Billie Mandle's photographs explore the relationship between the spiritual and the concrete through documenting church confessionals. Evoking a sensation of the hidden and the private, Mandle's images highlight the interiority of these tiny rooms, exposing them as if something shameful occurred there. Through the close attention she pays to the mundane details and textures of walls, grates, carpets and wooden kneelers, the spaces are transformed into abstractions bathed in ethereal light. At times severe due to their bareness, at other times, decadently saturated in spills of color, the photographs themselves become a physical manifestation of penance. Through abstracting the actual materials filling these rooms, Mandle atones the dingy scruffiness of the everyday with a mystic otherworldliness. The artist's solitary pilgrimages to photograph these spaces mirror the ritual that is supposed to take place there.
The compositions of Wilfredo Ortega's installations are generated out of interlocking vinyl sheets that are taped directly to the wall. Glossy, rectilinear and manufactured, these spaces evoke the structure of architectural environments as well as the playfulness and repetition of computer game graphics. Ortega's interest in the virtual goes beyond just alluding to it. He creates animated computer pieces and often works out the compositions for his paintings and installations digitally. His practice brings forth surprising connections between the grungy, urban geography of the city, and the labyrinthine, plastic anonymity of the net.
Leeza Meksin is a Moscow-born artist who makes paintings, videos, installations and multiples. She also designs sets and costumes for short films, and has recently co-directed a documentary funded by the George Soros Foundation. She received a Joint BA/MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Chicago, a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from Yale School of Art. Her work and site-specific installations have been exhibited throughout the country. Meksin teaches at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and the New York Art Studio in Manhattan. She lives in Brooklyn.