Michelle Lopez is an interdisciplinary sculptor and installation artist. As a builder, conceptualist, and manipulator of materials, Lopez inventively explores cultural phenomenon, stretching to their limits the industrial processes that craft consumerism in its many forms: she bends plywood to make body-sized wilted skateboards, mirrors glass to build smoke clouds out of silver nitrate, manufactures heavy gold thrones out of slender lead tendrils. Lopez’s gimlet eye examines collapsed political and social structures by inverting cultural tropes through the process of building, exploiting industrial materials to expose the hidden boundaries of embedded societal constructions.
The gravity-defying House of Cards, a 2019 installation, suspended a fragile scaffolding system with artist-fabricated steel rope and found rubble. In doing so she turned the traditional sculptural approach of inhabiting space on its head, focusing as much on the volume created around an object as the object itself, making the work almost disappear as a reflection of our cultural moment. Another work, Fictitious Pivot, 2017, strategically deployed a squad of actors and musicians(flutists) to both mimic and amplify an architectural space in order to activate phantom gestures and diffuse forms of figuration.
In fully encasing a 1971 Honda 600 automobile in skin-colored leather, early works such as Boy, 1999, offered commentary on contemporary society's relationship to consumer products by combining disparate forms of capitalism. Lopez also examines art-historical Minimalist forms by building abject spare structures out of debris. Constructed of crumpled aluminum and stainless-steel, Blue Angels, 2011, exemplifies post-9/11 technological failure while also considering the performative element of the artist’s body via sculpture. The sound and kinetic installation, Halyard, 2013, probes structures of power and the phenomenon of violence using structures of silence and disappearance. In the elegiacal Smoke Clouds, 2013, by pouring silver-nitrate onto immense sheets of reflective glass, one is left with a haunting stain evocative of the billowing aftermath of a violent explosion even as the glass acts as a mirror reflecting the viewer’s own image back to them.
Lopez has an M.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts, New York and a B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University, New York. Recent solo exhibitions include: ‘House of Cards' (Simon Preston, Gallery, 2018); ‘Halyard’(Alt/Protocinema, Istanbul, 2016); ‘Angels, Flags, Bangs’ (The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Connecticut, 2014; Galerie Christophe Gaillard, Paris, 2012;and Simon Preston, New York in 2009, 2011, and 2015); and ‘The Year We Made Contact’ (LA><Xart, Los Angeles, 2008).
Lopez was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2019 and had a solo show at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Philadelphia(September 2019 - May 2020).
Other recent group exhibitions include ‘You Just Fit, You and I’(Harvard Carpenter Center for the Arts); ‘Re-Enactments’ (Museum of Contemporary Art & Design, Manila, Philippines); ‘When You Cut into the Present, the Future Leaks Out’ (No Longer Empty, The Old Bronx Courthouse, New York, NY); ‘Temporary/Contemporary’ (Bass Museum of Art, Miami, Florida); ‘A Chromatic Loss’ (Bortolami Gallery, New York, 2014). She has taught at University of California Berkeley, Yale School of Art, the School of Visual Arts, and is Director of Sculpture & Installation in the Fine Arts Program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.