Susan Feldman and Axel Wilhite at Launch LA
through January 6th, 2018
Launch LA, Los Angeles
By Genie Davis
Launch LA is home to two fine solo shows this month, Susan Feldman’s Crossed Sections and Axel Wilhite’s Virtual Memory. While Wilhite works with computer memory chips as his material, painting perfectly realized, minute works depicting cars, creatures, and sunsets on each; Feldman’s work utilizes found objects to construct architectural assemblages that resemble dimensional skyscrapers that soar larger than their literal circumference.
Layered materials are based around photographs printed on plexiglass, wood, string, plastic, and paint, which together create visceral constructs that seem to be a part of the photographic images, rising up out of them, creating a full structure. Each separate work vibrates with life, as if spilling out of its physical constraints and becoming a fully imagined physical plane.
As wall sculptures, these images are beautiful and fragile; ragged edges and broken wood makes them seem delicate if unconstrained. The photographic images set the stage, and can be viewed as a look into the past – of which only fragments remain – or as a stage set that has broken out of its pristine, limited creation and is in the process of becoming fully alive. There is also an element of the futuristic to them, a still-being-realized vision of things yet to come.
Part memory, part fantasy, part history – that is what the combination of mediums, including discarded bits that are anyone else’s detritus, but are Feldman’s tools – becomes. Feldman is gracious and cool in the shaping of this work, using discarded materials to form images that are almost reverential.
Reverence aside, Feldman wants viewers to know that she “had a blast” creating these works. “I hope people take the time to go inside each piece to view all that is going on in them. I hope people enjoy them as much as I loved making them,” she enthuses. “I also want viewers to be able to see all the different universes/stories/narratives that I imagine going on, as well as to create their own interpretations of what’s going on in the pieces.”
There is something of an alternative universe about these works, in the stories that Feldman is creating. “I do feel like there is an alternative universe going on in these pieces, while at the same time you can view what’s really going on…kind of like looking at things from several different perspectives. The layering and re-configuring make that feel possible,” Feldman notes.
Her use of materials shapes the creations of these works, and the materials themselves shape the ideas for each piece.
“I’m naturally drawn to and obsessed with wood that I find amongst various destruction or construction sites. I then get back into my studio and just start gathering the wood, transparencies that I’ve shot, and start the layering process,” Feldman attests. “I’m also very influenced by color combos, using what I find appearing naturally in the ‘cityscape,’” she says. “I combine the imagery, wood, plexi, string as I go. The string is the last step to kind of tie the whole thing together. I never really have a plan,” she relates. “In fact, I really enjoy marking up the plexiglass and transparencies with drawings, fake notes and measurements, that make it look like I do have a plan,” she laughs.
The use of photographs on plexiglass is nothing new for Feldman. “For many years, I used to work with plexiglass,” she explains. “I would paint, use imagery, and draw on the back, therefore creating layers that would show through when you flipped the plexi over.”
Feldman adds that she has always had an intense connection with architecture.
“I took a break from the plexiglass aspect for a while when I was just working with found wood and rope or string. Little by little, I wanted to add color to those works, so I began incorporating yarns and colored strings.”
She says that she felt as if she were painting through the use of the brightly colored strings.
“After working on building 3-D structures with just wood, it felt totally natural for me to add the plexiglass work, too,” she notes. “Also, I like how it takes on a ‘building’ look, and of course the layering drives me wild.”
Feldman makes each of the assemblages here into a structure, one that seems somewhat mythic, both in its ability to tell a story to the viewer and with a sense of on-going construction that shifts before the viewers’ eyes.
The work here was inspired by Feldman’s meditation practice and an active visualization of enlightenment or rising. That spiritual growth or journey is a part of the architectural construction, creating buildings of a different sort, not so much high-rises as structures that are symbolically rising into images that coalesce as beautiful glimpses into brand-new worlds.