Trip the Light Fantastic: Color, Form & Play in the Art of Marion Lane & Rochelle Botello

Trip The Light Fantastic: Marion Lane and Rochelle Botello

June 3-June 24, 2017

Groundspace Project

1427 E. 4th St. #4, Los Angeles, CA 90033


Com, and trip it as ye go,

On the light fantastick toe.

--John Milton, 1645 

The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.

--Carl Jung

Marion Lane and Rochelle Botello's exuberant artworks present fusions of color, form, and content that are simultaneously appealing and transformative. Lane's acrylic-on-panel paintings and Botello's tape-wrapped cardboard sculptures articulate the expressive possibilities of abstraction in an idiom of playful delight. Physically seductive and emotionally poetic, they invite viewers into an engaged experience that German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002) described "playful" (in the sense of "putting into play.") Gadamer asserted that artworks open up "a space in which both the world, and our own being in the world, are brought to light as a single, but inexhaustibly rich totality."  He added, "The reader of a novel, the opera listener, or the painting's viewer finds him or herself drawn into a place, which is experienced as a more excellent reality." The "more excellent reality" of Lane and Botello's delectable art moves us out of ordinary time and into visual and psychological play..

Lane grew up in Los Angeles in what she describes as a "bohemian, hippie, artsy" family. Her mother (Grace Zabriskie) is a renowned actress who also worked as an art teacher during Lane's childhood. Painting was "just natural" to the young Lane. She continued painting during the non-art jobs she took: first as a bookkeeper in the Garment District, than as a designer at Disney. Her first major exhibition was at the Brewery in 1999, where she showed her "Allover Series," a group of paintings dominated by intense color and surfaces covered with spiky protrusions of pigment. The paintings allude to various natural forms at the same time they declare their adamant, independent object-ness. Playfully evoking everything from sea urchins or anemones to accretive succulents like rebutia heliosa, the "Allover Series" both attracts (those surfaces are so cool!) and repels (but they're a little creepy, too...are those tentacles moving?) 

Almost twenty years later, Lane is still creating ebullient paintings that shuttle between abstraction and representation. Her artworks in the 2017 "Trip the Light Fantastic" exhibition at Groundspace Project are luscious compositions with unexpected color combinations: hot pink and chartreuse, silver and sage, turquoise and rusty brown. Lane pours and manipulates thick swaths of paint on the flat surfaces of wooden panels, allowing the pigment to flow and puddle. She weaves the various tones into infinitely inventive designs, from Op-like stripes to sinuous spirals to geological swirls that recall the undulations of rippling waves or sedimentary rocks. (Think of the sandstone cliffs like Coyote Butte, Utah.)

The tension between depicting the external world and resisting representation animates all of Lane's works. Viewers are drawn in and want to find a way to understand the images as narrative, at the same time realizing the artist has rejected any illustrative modality. (As with many abstract artworks, her paintings can function almost as Rorschach tests; but instead of inkblots, viewers project their perceptions onto Lane's playful layers of color and form.)

Rochelle Botello also straddles the abstract/representational divide. She does so in remarkable sculptures that began in the early years of this new century with imaginative--and sometimes transgressive--narratives but have now evolved into joyful abstractions. Like Lane, Botello is a California girl. She grew up "caught up in her imagination," constantly drawing and making up stories. She came to full-time art-making after 17 years as a social worker. In her late twenties, Botello travelled to Europe with a friend and was inspired by the art she saw, especially some of the contemporary installations in London. She realized she could merge her "doodling" with her storytelling in the realm of the visual arts. She returned to LA and began taking art classes. After several sculpture classes with local sculptor Coleen Sterritt, Botello entered the MFA program at Claremont Graduate University. 

When she graduated in 2004, Botello was making bundle-like forms bound in yarn and string. Within a few years, these morphed into large tableaus of intentionally awkward doll-like figures made from quotidian materials: cardboard, masking tape, fabric, faux fur. Quirky mannequins tumble through space, wearing weird clothes and accompanied by bizarre animal companions. Many of her tableaus address the contrasts of public and private life. (What are we allowed to do in public? How much does this reflect our authentic selves?) She constructs psychosexual environments informed by insights from her training as a social worker.

While photographing the tableaus in her "Out of the Woods" series (2009), Botello was especially drawn to the close-up details of the surfaces that were covered with colored tape. At that time, the artist had experienced a personal loss and found herself drawn to a more interior dialogue. The close-ups directed her aesthetic attention to the way colors and shapes perform, and she realized she could address the inner world best through abstraction.

Botello's pieces in "Trip the Light Fantastic" are complex, spindly shapes that balance on platforms of egg-yolk yellow or totter precariously on magenta legs. Her sculptures dance and turn, with tendrils shooting out at gangling angles. This formal dynamism was physically articulated at the exhibition opening through the performances of Los Angeles dancer Shelby Williams-Gonzalez, who improvised amazing movements while interacting with the sculptures. William-Gonzalez moved around the sculptures, imitating their shapes, picking them up, and gesturing with them. (Constructed of cardboard and tape, they are quite lightweight.) The sculptures were transformed into dance partners, their fragile extensions functioning as limbs or appendages, their thicker sections as torsos. 

Marion Lane and Rochelle Botello beckon us to the delight-filled realms of their imagined worlds. They present alluring abstractions that urge us to think and play. As physician Stuart Brown and his co-author Christopher Vaughan remind us: "If we’re going to adapt to changing economic and personal circumstances the way that nature armed us to do, then we have to find ourselves having some play time virtually every day.” The enchanting aesthetic worlds of Marion Lane and Rochelle Botello welcome us to that playtime. WM


Betty Ann Brown

Betty Ann Brown is an art historian, critic, and curator. She received her Ph.D. in the History of Art in 1978 and joined the CSUN faculty in 1986. Brown has curated retrospective exhibitions for Hans Burkhardt, Roland Reiss, Linda Vallejo, June Wayne, and John White, as well as numerous themed exhibitions, including Time, Space & Matter: Five Installations Exploring Natural Phenomena (Lita Albuquerque, Suvan Geer, George Geyer, Mineko Grimmer, Tom McMillan, and Christine Nguyen) and Fantastic Feminist Figuration (Jodi Bonassi, Bibi Davidson, Enzia Farrell, Laura Larson, Dierdre Sullivan-Beeman, Tslil Tsemet, and Lauren YS.)

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