Laurie Shapiro’s Before You Were Born
Radiant Space, Los Angeles
By Sydney Walters
This month, Radiant Space presents an unexpected den of astral visions from the mind of Los Angeles based artist Laurie Shapiro. Just off of Sunset Boulevard, Radiant Space conceals its white walls under kaleidoscopic tapestries of painted muslin and hand-sewn screen prints.
Before You Were Born functions as a celestial womb rather than a gallery space. A smoking sage stick rests on a plate by the entrance while music plays of an assembly of hypnotic drums and guitars. Dazzling arrays of paintings mimic the gesticulations of symbolist painter Gustav Klimt and are sewn together using silver metallic sheets. Hand-sewn lanterns hang at eye level, thrusting visitors into a surreal perspective shift.
The space has a similar layout to a cathedral. And although her “cathedral” is compressed in size, it is no less overwhelming. Large Roy De Forest inspired paintings hang in place of stained-glass Biblical narrations. By using water-based paints, she achieves an effect of crystalline glass. In many cathedrals, the heavenly realms are represented by gold, but here a purple glittering sky illuminates the spaces between each painting. At the back of the room, where there would be a Christ Pantocrator, Shapiro presents Warrior, a goddess figure with her hands outstretched, hovering above an open flower. These “meta” flowers, or flowers with floral screen-prints sewn into them, result in a layered exposition of texture, line and color.
Small mirrors are scattered, often at eye level, throughout the exhibition. By embedding these mirrors in “Before You Were Born”, Shapiro graciously gestures to the “you”. By adding elements that reflect each visitor, the space becomes an ever-changing installation that subtlety shifts depending on who is present. This is a significant opportunity for visitors to personalize the experience and observe the wall hangings that cross-pollinate between time and place.
For example, in Healers, and man and a woman lean into one another as if about to kiss. Their heads are tucked underneath an umbrella while flowers cascade down either side of it. Like Flora in Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera, the man is almost entirely composed of flowers. The timeless symbolism of this image is contrasted with other paintings that represent definitive places. In Venice, light orange cones surround a lifeguard tower on the beach. Silhouettes of palm trees disrupt the pastel floral print skyline. In MOCA Court Yard, Shapiro re-imagines Nancy Rubins’ Airplane Parts by transforming it onto a small, leafy oasis. For Shapiro, the best monument for contemporary art is a memorial to terrestrial and celestial beauty rather than modern machine manipulation.
Every piece of the exhibit is for sale. So whether it is an amethyst constellation, an abstract portrait or the MOCA Court Yard, each element and can be disassembled and reinstalled into a home as a mystic portal.