Luciana Abait: On the Verge
Labland Art Gallery, Loyola Marymount University
September 17 through December 10, 2022
By WM October, 2022
Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Luciana Abait is based in Los Angeles, where she is a resident artist of 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica.
Abait's works are multimedia, utilizing a complex technique that is part photographic and part painterly. Abait uses images of nature such as icebergs, the ocean and other aspects of the immensity of the natural world. At the same time you can see traces of human interaction with the environment. Whitehot had a chance to speak with Luciana Abait.
Whitehot: Your show opened September 17th.
Luciana Abait: Yes.
WM: And this is the elusively beautiful series of kind of mysterious landscapes with icebergs and water.
WM: There's this one piece of yours, well I think of it as one piece, but it's four pictures of icebergs in different formations and different colors. Can you talk a little bit about what your concept with that was? It's unique how the colors relate from piece to piece...
LA: All my iceberg landscapes are imaginary landscapes. They are digital collages that I create with photographs that I've taken in California, of pieces of ice. I combine them with photographs that my friends send me from their trips where they visited icebergs. So I grab pieces from the internet, from encyclopedias. So I put together these landscapes where I combine my personal history with our collective memories. And in these particular pieces that you're talking about, these are I think the most, I would say, graphic pieces of the show. They are closeups of icebergs and they could even be abstractions in a sense.
WM: What kind of green is that? It's so bright and so vibrational.
LA: Yes it is. This is the first time that I'm working with these very bright skies that are really, really bright and stark. I mean the green, it's not an acid green but it's like a science fiction sky, even post-apocalyptic if you want to call it. So it talks about a world that has changed beyond recognition. It's in a very poetic way to talk about how our world is changing and things are changing beyond what we are normally used to seeing.
WM: And can you talk about the process of making them, the actual technical process? How do you start them? How do you finish them?
LA: I start with a digital collage that then in most of the cases I print the works on watercolor paper - it's a cotton watercolor paper. And then the works are mounted on wood panels. And then I work over the surface with soft pastels and pencils, so it's a mixed media technique. I'm originally a painter, so now I work on the surface of the photograph with my own hand and apply different materials over the surface of the photograph. Most of my works in the show are mixed media. The only pieces that are purely photographic, I would say are from the On The Verge series, and then there are the day and the night pieces. But all of the rest are mixed media where I apply different materials onto the surface of the photograph.
WM: When did you first get started on this series?
LA: I started with a series of icebergs in 2017. I had read an article about a piece of iceberg breaking off Antarctica and it was floating aimlessly on the Atlantic Ocean, and scientists were trying to figure out where the iceberg was going to land or where it was going to end up - I found this image very poetic. At that same time, I could associate it with my immigration history as I moved from Argentina, then to Miami and then to Los Angeles. And the idea of drifting in the ocean and trying to find your final place to call home. This iceberg series is the most personal as well, because I could identify with these isolated icebergs that are floating in the ocean. These works are about isolation, assimilation, displacement, and immigration...
WM: And you have traces of people in them but no actual figures, but just maybe a ladder between an iceberg or something that looks like it might be part of an oil rig. So you want some human traces in the vicinity but not maybe as the subject?
LA: Yeah, it's very interesting. There's only one piece in the show that has two very minute people, which is On The Verge series. The rest of the pieces have no people. And yes, you say there are many elements from the human world inserted into the landscapes. I'm talking about the intrusion of humans into nature even in the most remote places on earth. So that's where you will see a ladder or a Ferris wheel, there's a bridge, a red bridge joining two icebergs. Then there's a buoy floating in the middle of the ocean. So the human presence is there through those objects and it talks about how we invade nature. And then in the On The Verge series, which are six pieces that I created this year, photographs that I took on Lake Powell, there's one piece that has two very minute almost untraceable people. And again, it makes a reflection of how tiny we are when we are compared to the environment.
WM: And you're dealing directly with the sublime and different aspects of weather and different times of day.
LA: Yes. Definitely. They're not a diptych - but they are a diptych in a sense. There's this piece Day and Night, which is really big in scale, they are 84 by 110. And so of course one piece talks about the beginning of the day and the other one is night, and there's one lonely iceberg in each of them. So it talks about, again, the passage of time and the cycle of life. What could be the beginning, the end, and starting all over again.
WM: Is your work always in this area of landscape or does it go into any other figuration?
LA: Yeah, my work has always been influenced by the environments where I've lived. So, when I lived in Miami that's when I started working with the theme of water. And from there I started incorporating other themes like vegetation, then dry vegetation and then icebergs. Landscapes take on different shapes and different elements from nature in the works. There's this theatrical element, this surreal element, this science fiction element, this sense of isolation, of silence that is always constant in my work. Yeah.
WM: Great. And how long is the show on?
LA: It's until the December the 10th.
WM: Okay. And what's coming up next for you after that?
LA: On The Verge, there's a monumental installation that presents the maps. It's made up of maps of the world, talking about immigration and environmental issues. So right now I'm installing the second iteration of that installation that's called The Maps That Failed Us Too in Pasadena, at the Boston Court, Pasadena. It's a theater in Pasadena. They're opening a play on environmental issues, so they wanted to have an installation in their lobby that dealt with environmental issues. And I'm also taking part in, at the end of October, the Rome Art Week in Rome. So I'll be presenting there.
WM: Thanks for talking to us today. It was nice to meet you. WM
*TALK AND WALK-THROUGH with ABAIT and curator and gallery director KAREN RAPP is scheduled for Friday, November 18, 2022, from 12:15pm to 1:30pm