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Review: Nicola Lopéz’s Show Speaks to Contemporary Conflicts

Friday, August 29, 2014


Barren Lands Breed Strange Visions , 2014 woodcut, montype and silkscreen on mylar 121 x 348" Image courtesy of the Nicola López and Dan Kvitka

Through the careful study of architectural forms, printmaker Nicola Lopéz’s work in FORECASTING an IMPOSSIBLY POSSIBLE TOMORROW at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery explores the rise and fall of world cultures, and their empires, particularly in relationship to the chaotic and impermanent nature of even the most complex human creations.

The works in this  exhibition expand the artist’s concerns into installation and video, in addition to her prints. 

Throughout these different approaches run strong conceptual, aesthetic, and technical connections, in part because each of the artist’s working methods involves different transfer-based processes such as monotype, lithograph, and silkscreen printmaking. Each work depicts some type, or state, of architectural evolution (or devolution).

Some works depict complete “models,” while others read like blueprints, evoking spaces in the midst of transformation and renovation - blue painter’s tape and all. 

Perhaps what is most intriguing about these works is the sense of dislocation and strangeness you feel while regarding them. This feeling is most unnerving in Lopez’s The Babel Cycles (2014), a series of collaged prints and an eight-minute video. At times, the architectural structures depicted in The Babel Cycles seem alien, as though sprung from the pages of a science fiction novel. At other times, however, they seem intensely familiar and reassuring. 

Looking carefully at these hybrid landscapes, you notice what appear to be ancient Greek columns, the Eiffel Tower, and Mayan pyramids mixed in with blocky skyscrapers, geodesic domes, and skeletal frames. This juxtaposition of old and new results in towering, impossible structures that teeter on the edge of collapse. 

In Babel’s accompanying stop-frame animation, Lopez layers and arranges cut-out silkscreen prints and blue tape. Here, construction and destruction unwind before our eyes, as fantastical buildings ascend and collapse like fragile monstrosities. The work’s clear reference to the biblical Tower of Babel speaks to contemporary conflicts, and urges us to consider the use and reuse of the past in the service of the present, and the future. : 

FORECASTING an IMPOSSIBLY POSSIBLE TOMORROW is showing at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery, 417 NW 9th Avenue, Portland. The show runs through Sept. 27. 


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