|Change Street, 2009, oil on canvas, papier mache, aluminum, and cardboard, |
17 x 14 x 2 inches
|Triangle Piece, 2008, bamboo, plastic, papier mache, paint, and fabric, 46 x 17 x 20 inches|
|Overlook Mtn., 2007, rearview mirror, duct tape, tile, papier mache, plaster, and acrylic on canvas, 12 x 18.5 x 3 inches|
|Successive Selves Diodes, 2009, plaster, bamboo, steel, copper, plastic, cigarettes, cardboard, wax, papier mache, acrylic paint, etc., |
47 x 26 x 100 inches
|Fan II, 2009, acrylic on file folder paper, 11 x 18.5 inches|
|Sham, 2007, oil, wood, and papier mache, 27 x 25 x 5 inches|
Elisa Lendvay is one of
those artists who are pushing the boundaries of painting and sculpture,
blurring any sort of distinction between the two—and doing it well. The
scope of her work is wide, covering issues of placement (both on walls, and on
the floor), color, composition, the incorporation of disparate materials, and
exquisite drawings. Choosing just a few images for this write-up proved
difficult because so many of her works are so interesting; interesting not for
just how they’re done, but more importantly, for the narrative that they’re
imbued with and hint at.
The works in the Uprights series are a formal/informal exercise in verticality.
They bring to mind tools used in measuring and documenting—the tripods that
hold surveyors equipment and cameras, etc., and are almost always coated with
pigment of some sort. Her paintings tend to be overtly 3d, with papier
mache inclusions that expand outward to supplement the limitations of the picture
plane. There’s an interconnectedness between all of Lendvay’s work; a
grander narrative that’s in the air between them because of how well she’s
worked out the material aspects. The following interview sheds just a bit
of light on what’s going on in her work.
PB: What impulse
pushes you to work in a way that results in those things commonly referred to
as painting and sculpture; do you see the two ways of working as distinct, or
one and the same?
EL: Well, the impulse is to
visualize thoughts and forms in ways that offer different ways of seeing and
relating to the body and perception. Sometimes it should be in the compressed
picture plane, or extending out of the wall’s space, or in full physicality in
the upright. I’m interested in rendering movement and a sort of energy in
different ways of working and thinking with the hands. I don’t often
differentiate between painting and sculpture. But then, I am also interested in
each as distinct ways of working. They are totally different ways of working and
yet they present many of the same problems.
When I apply paint to a sculpture
though it is often different than when I apply it to a 2D surface. I feel like
when I paint a sculpture black, it has more intense physical associations and
drama to it than the black of canvas. Then there is painting to accentuate the
form or make pattern from the form by outlining and elaborating on the lines,
corners and curves of the form within its parameters – that sometimes does the
trick. I’ve realized over the years how well Dubuffet did that with his larger
sculptures. I’m often interested in the intrinsic colors of materials or
specific objects I use. In that case, nothing is applied. If I want color that
is not in the material and not applied I mix pigments or rust, etc, into the
material before it hardens like in hydrocal or papier machie so that it is
innately in the piece.
I had an early interest in
sculpture as a student because I was drawn to the possibilities. It seemed like
the place where I could most experiment with materiality and do whatever I
wanted. However, early on it started as a way of structuring more of a painting
with shapes or found forms that compartmentalized colors.
PB: Who do you view
as seminal figures in art history that you draw influence from and what is it
about their work that really impacted you?
EL: There are many whose work has impacted me. I’ll try not to list everything
here. Of course when I’m in the studio, I’m not trying to think about that
directly. Myron Stout for his simple forms as symbols. Cubism and early Modernism, i.e. Picasso Sculptures, Braque, Duchamp, The Vorticists, Arshile Gorky, long amazed by the portrait he did with his mother and his use
of color and shapes defined by brushstrokes.
There were a few pieces in my teens that I saw at the Dallas
Museum of Art that were formative. Claus Oldenberg’s Stake Hitch and Rauschenberg’s Skyway. They also had a nice Lee
Bontecou which I thought was the perfect wall sculpture and with a void like
the eye of the storm.
I learned how to weld in high school and we had access to a great scrap yard. I
also looked at books on sculpture, you know, the “plastic arts”, that spanned a
limited period, the 30s – 60s. I loved Naum Gabo’s work (and his name) and his
use of line and transparency and David Smiths’s approach to monumental
metal sculpture. I saw how he ground the scrap metal down to show the gleaming
metal. I emulated both and others. I would make wall pieces using scrap metal
from factories with patterns of cutouts, grind the rust to reveal the sparkle
and put a painted surface behind it. I was always interested in conveying this
unknown space behind.
Growing up Catholic in Dallas, Texas got me
interested in ritual, sacred space and architecture and history beyond my
surroundings. That led me to an interest in medieval art, cathedrals, and
seeing everything I should see in Italy. Bernini’s
Ecstasy of St. Theresa and those
rays, and Apollo and Daphne, the
movement and transformations and the translucency of the leaves of the marble
have always inspired me.
Art Deco design, Dagobert Pesche, Pompeian art and artifacts -- My parents had a catalog of a Pompeian art
exhibition. I was drawn to it intensely as a child for the tragedy and mystery:
a quiet, sunny day in an ancient Roman town and a volcano unexpectedly erupts
covering ash over a village, burying it and the people and animals yet
preserving the painting and way of life for people to find later. I was
fascinated that the shapes of the huddled bodies were preserved and later that
negative space was filled in with plaster of paris
by archeologists and these ancient humans, dogs, pigs, etc. at death’s door
were revealed as ultimate sculptures, like fossils. We see people’s last
moments but along with that these rich paintings and mosaics that depict
mythology, feast and eroticism. That Pompeian red, the clothing and jewelry,
and the paintings that depict architectural spaces were beauty ideals for me,
with a tainted sense of fatality.
When it comes to the
necessity for depicting as a contemplative act I am always inspired by
the artists of prehistoric cave painting and the beautiful, often simple
gestural line quality. It’s kind of the most perfect essential art.
PB: What sources
inform your narrative and can you elaborate on the various aspects of it?
EL: I think more in
terms of instantaneous perception in the work I’ve been doing. I have been thinking
about place and how it informs me - being present where I am, the specific
landscape, the city. I take walks and try to tap into or out of the energy of a
place – people watch or to be in nature, walk barefoot in a creek bed. It feeds
me. I feel connected to a charged space of making. I often pick up artifacts
along the way, as fragments of manmade form or natural flotsam that I want to
respond to formally. As I walk or bike across the expressway, and pass the
cemetery from Queens to Brooklyn to my studio, I
often find certain sizes of chipped plastic parts or metal strips that have
been run over. There are criteria for forms that I want to respond to and
transform further. There might be a flattened curved black shape that has
remaining bits of color, which I can emulate in repeated forms, like an echo of
the original that is already something different than what it was, or a piece
of driftwood from a hike in the Adirondacks that looks like a goat. These parts have
histories and my process with them is like strata, tracking of time, extension
of the moment.
PB: Your file folder
drawings with the holes in the paper are just great, with a toughness about them.
Do you have any plans to progress your drawings and works on paper even
EL: Thank you. Yes, I’m
into the rawness especially with the fan shaped ones, starting within a
specific gestural shape itself, and then the ripping of the paper in patterns,
exposing the surface behind it. Drawing is essential to my practice as a way of
recording. It’s a way I figure out forms, doodles, words and thoughts I find
and sketch in the day to day, and most importantly, ideas and sketches of forms
to make. The drawings are always purest in this spontaneous way of
drawing/recording of small inventories of form and variations of sculptures I
have made. I’m continually trying to capture and depict these drawn forms in a
larger scale and back again in sculpture. They are at their best most
immediate, but I want to shift the scale and present them in a consistent
influencing you outside of art and what’s been on your reading/listening list?
EL: Much of what I’m reading these days has to do with memory,
perception and heightened experiences:
Configurations by Octavio Paz. I’ve long loved reading these poems in Spanish
and then English. He translated many of his poems himself. Reading in
translation, in between languages, accentuates the “in-between-ness” that is in
the poems. The space he creates, I relate to in my art, a sort of
I had a show titled Force of Things -- some of the titles
referenced these poems because I was thinking about them very much then. I also
quoted part of Successive Suns of Summer in the PR; Matter and Memory, Henri
Bergson; Remembrance of Things Past, Swann’s Way 1st Vol, Marcel Proust; The
Wild Prayer of Longing, Poetry of the Sacred, Nathan A. Scott Grey; The Heart
is a lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers; Marilynne Robinson books: Home, Housekeeping, Gilead; To the Lighthouse, Virginia Wolf, Jane Eyre,
Charlotte Brontë (and Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys’ parallel novel take), Everything
that Rises Must Converge, Flannery O’Connor; The Essential Rilke, Selected and
translated by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann
(I also like that he wrote a book about Rodin). Also: The Man Who Mistook his
Wife for a Hat, Oliver Sacks; Cosmos and History, Mircea Eliade.
Music is always a source of inspiration. I also write songs. I’ve been
listening to Bill Callahan lately in the studio, Ethiopiques, various gypsy
music, and there’s always Bach.