Kira Vollman: Music of the Mind
By Genie Davis
She calls herself a scavenger. Kira Vollman is both a visual and audio artist, and her recent exhibition, Ascending Intervals, just closed at the Neutra Institute and Museum in Silverlake, is a perfect example of the artist’s strong sense of movement and music. Using wire and wood, discarded chairs, branches, metal bars, Vollman creates her own world from the discards of ours.
What Vollman scavenges is detritus reinvented. “I explore the aesthetic possibilities and reinvention of discarded ‘junk,’” she attests. Inspired by other people’s trash – and turning it into treasure – is the artist’s thing, as she combines her curated refuse with traditional mediums from painting to photography and sculpture.
Vollman shapes unique fusions of found objects and traditional art forms, and molds an entirely new architectural environment. At the Neutra, her work transforms and transcends the rude origins of her found materials. From scrap metal to tree branches to a discarded piece of home decor, Vollman takes discards and renders them into a kind of visual poetry that literally and figuratively sings. Her background as musician and composer leads to interactive sonic elements in her installations and wall sculptures. The exhibit’s title itself, Ascending Intervals, references the idea of notes in a scale as well as the idea of a spiritual, cultural, and personal ascending of knowledge, perception, and belief. The literal sounds Vollman employs are created from voice and instrumentation that she plays and records, with motion sensors triggering the music and engaging viewers. The sonic element makes Vollman’s world even more inclusive, taking in the visual and the auditory while the mediums the artist works with are so exceedingly tactile that viewers may feel as if they are touched by them without having been physically touched.
Her painting “Reception 1” features a chair fused with a tree; roots lead from the tree beneath the ground. The ground is also a box, a geometric shape, a map-like fusion of earth and object. A large scale sculpture continues this dialog between tree, branches, earth, and space with a rough chair fused with branches that resemble living creatures positioned in the middle of the gallery. It’s a stunning piece, one which seems alive, a construct from a fairy tale.
“Breathe #2” features plastic faces buried and adrift in layers of white, singing for escape; the sonic component is eerie and immersive. The titular “Ascending Intervals” is a ladder-like construct that is dark and layered, offering both descent and escape. A large scale 80” x 64” piece, it spreads across a wall at the Neutra, the inside of a mechanical planet, a geometry of woven mesh, silver wires, dark metal. This is the work of heavenly robots, the lace weavings of angles and spiders. Equally alien and magical is a sculpture which resembles both church and tunnel, ark and open vessel, one that is haunting and spiritual in form.
Overall, Vollman’s work is a rush of sound/sight/and surreal, magical images. She profoundly succeeds in transforming not just discarded objects into art, but art into something otherworldly, immersive, and both uplifting and ominous at the same time.