Lourdes, currently artist-in-residence at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in NY, shares insight into her timely and poetic work as she prepares for her upcoming solo exhibition at the Knockdown Center.
Natalie Westbrook, Founding Editor, Lookie-Lookie
Natalie Westbrook: Your practice explores ideas of displacement, access, and alienation, as well as the forms that represent these conditions. Do you reference your own personal experience in your work?
Lourdes: I reference my physical and psychological relationship to the built landscape, especially in the context of how I navigate my body through public spaces. I am interested in the ways in which I locate my own body in relationship to the surrounding environment of the city, and in how I can then visually and materially expose the social and psychological repercussions of this relationship. My work moves between representation and abstraction so as to not only record this relationship to the urban landscape, but also to further examine my surroundings beyond the evident or immediately identifiable. Abstraction is useful here as it functions beyond the stated or expressed.
NW: Your work oscillates between abstraction and figuration, two-dimensional formats and sculpture/installation. Can you talk about your process and how you navigate these various trajectories?
L: The ideas that interest me are first accessed through photography, which emphasizesmy individual point of view, and further defines the metaphorical aspects of my pieces.My process starts with the compilation of visual information through photographs, taken either with my phone or my point-and-shoot camera, elements that I recognize as specific to these places. In my studio I convert this compilation of images into videos, drawings, and sculptures.
In my sculptures I present images of buildings that have been cut-out, knocked over onto the floor, rotated, or inverted; with these gestures I seek to alter their intrinsic or everyday meaning. In the case of these works, I make prints from the photographs that are transformed into sculptures by utilizing construction materials and standardized methods of fabrication borrowed from architectural buildings and spaces. The images and the place itself become the main visual sources for the materials that I will later use in the sculptures.
My two-dimensional works act as psychological descriptions of navigated spacescaptured by my camera, images that represent fragmentation, blockage, and alienation—the psychological and physical inundation of structures. These are representations of situations experienced in cities and spaces that I myself have inhabited, related to, or moved within.
I also incorporate found objects in installations that function as tableaus, a term used by Christian Camacho-Light in recent writings that describe these as theatrical stages with motionless characters. I also utilize spatial methods of access, blockage, and navigation to give final form to the installations. I am interested in representing different city-related human situations that always originate from a personal perspective, located for me through the photograph.
I intend my installations to be experienced as a series of non-linear events that are contextualized within the exhibition space, and which highlight various lived and embodied situations that I have encountered.
NW: You consistently implicate architecture in your work both conceptually and formally. Do you have an academic background in the field?
L: I majored in sculpture during my undergraduate and graduate studies. And while I have always addressed the physicality of my body in relationship to the spaces that I inhabit, it was working in a design studio during my undergraduate studies and studying architectural theory that first helped me to shape my interest in architecture and architectural spaces as carriers of ideologies and meaning. During my time in the design studio I acquired fabrication skills outside of usual academia that I have since employed in my sculptural works.
While in Graduate School, studies in spatial design helped me to further delineate how the pieces’ installation functioned in relation to the exhibition space, as well as the specificity of content produced through installation decision-making. Studies in semiotics and hermeneutics of the image in film also helped develop my understanding of how images function as objects or spaces, as well as how sculptures function as visual images.
NW: What have you been reading recently in the studio?
L: I have been working for many years now with the book A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes, in which he describes several states of the self in relation to the act of looking at a loved subject. In attempting to study the lover’s gaze, Barthes consciously seeks to channel the irrational by way of a rationalist perspective, to express the lover’s gaze toward the desired object/subject verbally. With this book, I have been considering how the gaze functions in relation to both conceptual and affective perspectives, their possible intersections, and whether the ineffable might find legible expression.
There is a similar difference between how verbal language functions and the mechanics of the visual sphere, between how meaning comes to be articulated within these two distinct systems in the production of knowledge. For me, there cannot be a literal translation, or transference, from one form of language to another, though I do still seek in my work to visualize how abstraction and meaning-making function within the verbal field. This intention comes from the need to consider the different modes through which my thought processes operate, as well as to acknowledge those types of logic that reside outside of my own primarily visual methods. Looking to Barthes, I attempt to channel the verbal by way of the visual, conscious that the two fields remain distinct.
NW: I want to come back to the notion of abstraction, which you mentioned in the beginning of our conversation. Can you elaborate on your thinking about visual abstraction and verbal meaning?
L: I see abstraction as a post-verbal form of knowledge, which allows me to consider social and urban manifestations visually while avoiding narration or illustration. In my use of visual language, I am interested in pushing past this type of exposition or representation. Rather, my aim is to expand the boundaries of the sayable and the comprehensible, in order to consider how the borders which define and divide language(s) are constituted. Philosophically, abstraction allows me to apply a transversal cut to the structural inner workings of visual language, exposing the “geology” of the different mechanisms that govern our daily lives.
I think of compressed thoughts as such moments in which there is a compression in language (either verbal or visual) where meaning and time contract, pushing the limits of the intelligible. How can I, for example, represent a psychological, personal, or otherwise immaterial experience of architectural or city space visually? My intention in my work is to give a tangible, material, and visual presence to this condensation of knowledge, to attempt to articulate meanings and languages outside the usual domain of the visual.
Lourdes is an artist who works with drawing, photography, collage, video, sculpture and installation. Carlo holds a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Yale University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Escuela de Artes Plasticas (School of Fine Arts). She is currently an artist-in-residence at The International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York (2015-2017) and has participated at The Core Program at Museum of Fine Arts Houston in Texas (2010-2012), the AIM Program at the Bronx Museum in New York (2013), and the Center for Photography at Woodstock in New York (2011).
Lourdes has exhibited with the following institutions: Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (CCS Bard) with the International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York, School of Visual Arts Curatorial Program (SVA) in New York, Real Art Ways in Connecticut, Bronx Museum in New York, The Core Program Museum of Fine Arts Houston in Texas, Julius Caesar in Chicago, Center for Photography at Woodstock in New York, Art Center South Florida in Miami among others. She will have a solo exhibition at The Knockdown Center in New York opening June 10th, 2017.