Landscape and Memory
The title of this exhibition takes inspiration from the book, Landscape and Memory, Simon Schama’s kaleidoscopic investigation into the human relationship to the natural world and landscapes representations in literature, art, and our collective consciousness. In his work, Schama explores the inseparability of human perception to our environment and how through this attachment we find a sense of identity in landscape. As the author notes, “It is our shaping perception that makes the difference between raw matter and landscape.”
The artists in this exhibition respond to the landscape genre through a spectrum of recollections: myths, memories, cultural histories, personal narratives, poetry, literature, and art. It is in this approach to the genre that these artists not only construct landscapes through the lens of ecological, topographical, or environmental considerations, but also as sociological and cultural compositions capable of eliciting memories and symbols specific of time and place.
The works in Landscape and Memory attest to the belief that landscape is not merely what we see in the world around us, rather, it is the ascription of values and philosophies to the places we retain in our memories.
“There is some deep personal distillation of spirit and concept which moulds these earthly facts into some transcendental emotional and spiritual experience” - Ansel Adams
In Dawn Arrowsmith’s lyrically rendered Meeting Place series, the artist relates emotion to time and space vis-à-vis her relationship with past artists such as Agnes Martin, Anjolie Ela Menon, Frida Khalo, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Arrowsmith’s paintings reveal a deeply personal response to both geography and individual character. In these works, the artist fuses memory and fantasy by placing her meticulously delineated cartographic forms floating above fields of vibrant color.
Alina Mnatsakanian’s works explore the ways in which the art and the objects we create represent a direct response to our homes, environments, and communities. The arabesques in Mnatsakanian’s Connecting dots series reference the lives of past individuals whose movements and migrations, as well as those of their immediate families, affect their identities. The artist’s suite of irregular shapes, interlaced boundaries, and tightly woven contours function as an imaginary map that reflects the identities of her subjects across multiple cultural and historical experiences.
For Danny Shain, assemblages of weathered streets, sprays of effaced graffiti, and prosaic bridges and overpasses are the quotidian structures that provide the source material for the artist’s interpretation of his urban environment. The architectural and tectonic forms which encompass these canvases cull together familiar scenes of battered highway signage, congested freeways, and serpentine interchanges - images synonymous with Southern California’s urban roadscape.
In mixed media paintings by Sam Grigorian, the artist makes reference to the bustling atmosphere of urban life through a subtle process of layering and abrasion which mirrors the natural stratification found in city centers. The rhythmic fragments and sensuous, color-rich textural forms of Grigorian’s Neo-cubist compositions evoke the organized chaos of city sprawl and densely packed urban environments.
John David O'Brien
Other works in the exhibition acknowledge and confront the paradoxical legacies of human behavior on the natural environment. John David O’Brien’s Storied Landscapes (Paesaggi Storici) series treats erosion as a metaphor for the contradiction that arises out of the beauty found in the creation of something new considering the natural forces of destruction and decay.
In Paul Paiement’s exquisitely rendered Nexus series, the artist exposes the tangled relationship between our collective view of nature with the idea of human culture and authority. In these works, Paiement harmonizes the synthetic elements of human culture with the natural world by directly embedding plexiglass depictions of architectural drawings onto open vistas of verdant woodlands, arid desert highlands, and snowcapped mountain peaks.