'IN THE MOUNTAINS' Paint and collage wall installation by Natale Lanese.
It's midsummer, a time of heightened sensations and significant experiences. Working to intensify both, two nationally known installation artists have refashioned the interior of an Arts District culture hub, distilling the particular energies of SPACE's two rooms more memorably than any makeover they've had in a while.
In the main, the large-scale wall paintings of Ohio-based artist Natalie Lanese consist of garish, candy-store color patterns and witty flourishes of symbol and gesture. Both "Waterfall (Corndogs)" and "Butte (Bananas)" marry the repetitious, product-based visual language of pop art with a backdrop of unlikely color combinations, some pairings so outlandish as to seem influenced by digital art. In "Cloud," several fat, ribbony waveforms extend nearly the length of the room's longest wall, their patterns weaving tightly into each other to induce illusions of depth and dimension. For "In the Mountains," vinyl decals cut into triangles of diminishing size appear as a cascading mountain range, complicating the perspective of the foreground patterns. They're an odd touch, better from afar than up close, yet accomplish what appears to be a recurring theme of Lanese's work, the painterly appropriation of images from an ultramodern, almost graphical aesthetic.
Titled "Popscapes," the circulation of pop imagery in Lanese's walls actually seems sparse. There are the bananas and the corndogs, of course — festive stuff — but their significance feels a little random and empty without further visual expansion. Her colors and textures are smart and sharp (though occasionally less so are the lines and application of paint), but it's her geometric considerations that truly bring these pieces to life. Designed on site, they amplify all that we associate with SPACE's main room: a cool wit, loud expressivity, and an intelligence that isn't always the most practically suited. And yeah, they glow in the dark.
In contrast to the acute angles and hyperactive chromatics, Emily White's teeming sculptures in the annex are clean, cold, and brilliant. (Her name offers another apt description.) For "Horns," the Los Angeles-based artist uses elaborate paper-cutting and -folding techniques to realize architectural formations that other materials, one gets the impression, could not easily hold. Visible through the open window facade, her four enormous structures — dwellings? — are freestanding and formed from thick white card stock. Their outer frames are porous, rewarding close inspections of their dense and delicate bodies. Constructed on site, they're perfect fits for the room's stark characteristics, the barren walls and exposed ceiling. No surprise: White's team of sixteen mostly local paper-folding technicians included designers Colin Sullivan-Stevens, John Sundling, and Petra Simmons, the latter of whom helped conceptualize the architecture of the room.
A series of White's draft sketches on the annex wall illustrate the vigilant mathematical detail that goes into these sculptures. A few push the form beyond what might be represented here, their component parts rendered so minute and articulate that they seem to surpass the limits of material form. They look more like calligraphy or a Chinese water dragon, like a purely theoretical architecture. Surely they could be built, but this collection is more about the possibilities one arrives at through the perspective change of medium. White, who has a master's degree in architecture, works also with sheet metal for her public installations (most of which are generally far more colorful than "Horns"). As impressive as her work is here, you might think of it as mere sketches as compared to her other installations, which can dwarf a human body in its recalibrations of physical space.