Ridgefield (March 2014): The practice of sculptor Michelle Lopez explores the contested yet fertile place where minimalism and feminism converge, diverge, and ultimately reunite.Angels, Flags, Bangs, her exhibition on view at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum from April 6 to September 21, 2014, will present new and recent sculptures that span three bodies of work.The Brooklyn-based artist employs the languages of material, form, and space,seeking to “corrupt Minimalism,” as she describes it, by making “macho sculpture feminine.” Three approximately nine-foot-tall sculptures—made from folded reflective stainless steel and aluminum with interiors painted in broad bands of automotive paint, colors evocative of commercial airlines—form the Blue Angels series (2011–ongoing), where the works lean precariously against the gallery walls. These crinkled forms reference crashed airplane fuselages, the twin towers, and John Chamberlain’s compressed car assemblages.The Flags series (2014), featuring three flags, each comprised of steel rod armature wrapped by Lopez with malleable pure lead sheets, will form a line on the long wall of The Aldrich’s Ramp, transforming symbols most often associated with defeat and nationalism into diminished, frail objects. Bangs (2013), a site-specific sculptural installation, will be made from commercial grade elevator blankets. Merging the felt sculptures of Robert Morris and the stylized female characters of Japanese anime, Lopez transforms the gallery into an intimate encounter, draping three interior walls with heavy matte black canvas cloth, she has cut, sewn, edged, and grommeted. The folds of the fabric are suggestive of a highly stylized cartoon wig or a mysterious being, as if a female ghost is emerging from the blankets’ curves.
Curator Amy Smith-Stewart says, “To make the Blue Angels, Lopez physically wrestles with the material on the ground in her studio, maneuvering these massive steel sheets through an intensive system of folding exercises.” She continues, “The Flags are evocative of surrender signals or a child’s bike security flag—universal images of truce or safety—the cragginess of their finish reads like a gnarled hand, heightening a sense of something that has been worn down or defeated.” Bangs will convert a small gallery into an elevator-like space, where, Smith-Stewart says, “Visitors will get lost in the immersive softness of the dark material, in the giant pleats of the reenacted blankets; engulfed by silence, claustrophobia ensues. Then, another body enters and releases us with the realization that we are not alone.”
Michelle Lopez: Angels, Flags, Bangs, Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, April 6 to September 21, 2014, excerpts from the press release.
"The practice of sculptor Michelle Lopez explores the contested yet generative place where Minimalism and Feminism converge,diverge, and ultimately reunite. The languages she employs—material, form, and space—seek to 'corrupt minimalism,' by making 'macho sculpture feminine.' Her interest lies in exploring the fragility of pop culture icons, notably 'boys’ toys' like skateboards, cars, and action figures, to 'express states of the body, such as suspension, lightness, rest, and crashing,' by bending, folding and manipulating materials to make them 'wilt,' 'melt,' 'crease,' and 'crush.' Lopez often submits the objects of these fetishized cultures, with their smooth lines, soft curves, and polished finishes, to violent acts and 'allegorical inversions' in order to unravel latent meaning and '...create ambiguity...by exploring androgyny.' In doing so, Lopez looks to (re)cover, (de)code, and (re)produce the methodologies of (un)making sculpture in order to find a language that looks beyond Minimalism and Feminism by collapsing, expanding,and ultimately releasing it from itself. Three approximately nine-foot-tall sculptures from the Blue Angels series (2011–ongoing) lean precariously—as if about to collapse—against the walls in the Screening Room. Made from folded reflective stainless steel and aluminum with interiors painted in distinctive bands of automotive paint,their primary colors are evocative of commercial airlines (Korean Air sea blue, Delta red, United royal blue). Blue Angel (Korean) and Blue Angel (United), both 2014, were made specifically for the exhibition. Here, their larger-than-life size and mirrored surfaces mimic Minimalism, but being remarkably light weight and devoid of bravado, reject its industrial fabrication and imposing authority. These crinkled forms, referencing crashed airplane fuselages, the twin towers, and John Chamberlain’s compressed car assemblages, recall the trauma of 9/11 and also our looming fear of new technology (as a deadly weapon). These 'hand-formed' gestures carry the weight of mourning figures and, as we orbit them,we are confronted by our distorted likeness. The title of the series refers to the US Navy’s aircraft used in aerobatic displays to commemorate old aerospace technology. To make the Blue Angels, Lopez physically wrestles with the material on the ground in her studio, negotiating these massive steel sheets through an intensive system of folding exercises."
Michelle Lopez: Angels, Flags, Bangs, Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, April 6 to September 21, 2014, excerpts from the catalogue.
Heavy steel rods cloaked in lead become hybrid forms of wilting SOS flags and plants. The manner in which the materials are delicately rendered transmutes robust industrial steel into something fragile and organic - implying the deconstruction of patriotism.
I began working on the idea of the flags, after working on Flare (2010), these thin tendril sculptures that referenced John McCracken’s leaning pieces in my Vertical Neck show. Linda Norden came into my studio afterwards and said she wanted a kind of danger to them, and I agreed. They were situated too much on a picture plane even though I was referencing an iconic Minimalist. They were possibly too abstract even though the premise of them came from the most minimal gesture that could arise out of destruction. So I removed their hang on the wall so they would rest on the floor and lean. I wanted an ambiguity between thorn, bud and then flag or primitive weapon. I also began using sheets of pure lead to form the tendrils. The material had the same movement as petals,as in Posy (the boat I made with wedding cake designer Sarah Bernbach). and I liked the contradiction of its fragile movement with its real material associated with metal and Serra. Instead of making a flag, I wanted the flag to actually begin to diminish and become the size of a child’s bike flag or an SOS flag. There is no victory in its abject folds.