2014 Banner Year


"Simon Preston Gallery is pleased to announce the third solo exhibition by Michelle Lopez at the gallery, which will open to the public on Sunday 16 November and run until Sunday 21 December, 2014.

Within the exhibition, Lopez presents two distinct bodies of work, comprising of a stark flagpole installed through the center of the gallery, and a series of large-scale leaning glass sculptures, that the artist has mirrored by hand.

The statement, “it was a banner year” implies a period of waving flags to signify success. A banner’s automatic notion of triumph becomes ubiquitous in public spaces. Lopez takes these cues and eliminates the banner, to lay bare its function: to mitigate our own human fears.

Titled ‘Halyard’, the work in the front gallery consists of the base of a 40ft. flagpole extending from the floor through the roof of the gallery, with its halyard and cleat clearly visible. The amplified sound of a gigantic flag whipping in the wind is strategically installed throughout the gallery – while the synchronized subtle movement of the rope, in tension with the cleat, alludes to the motion of an actual flag flapping high above the gallery roof. As the sound swells violently throughout the space, the halyard mirrors the movement of a flag in motion. The gesture of removal drains the “flag” of its primary purpose of nationalism and patriotism. The sound of a flag then becomes its own character.

In the back of the gallery, Lopez has poured free-form silver nitrate liquid onto large-scale, architectural glass. Through a process of light exposure, Lopez uses ultraviolet rays to adulterate the mirror coating chemically, to register a pattern of iridescent smoked explosions. The materiality of its mirror-ness means that the object appears and disappears, reflects it’s surrounding in a constant state of flux. This combination of  elements creates an ephemeral floating state of a mirror cloud hovering on a crystal clear space.

Lopez creates the experience of absence in the wake of an “explosion” both psychological and literal. What sculptural form and material does the phenomenon of an explosion take? Does it come through the object’s disappearance? Is it personified by the aftermath in the form of a billowing smoke cloud? Through the removal of the image, replaced by a mirrored smoke cloud, the work quite literally reflects ourselves, creating a new kind of sublime landscape."

Sound design and consultation courtesy of Jonathan Mildenberg and Andy Clifford.

-Michelle Lopez: Banner Year, Simon Preston Gallery, November 16 to December 21, 2014 excerpts from the press release.

No items found.
6 multi-channel stereo-sound installation: 11 min. loop, speakers, sound software, rope, steel cleat and 40 foot aluminum flag-pole puncturing roof of gallery
Simon Preston Gallery, New York. Also shown at Alt (Protocinema), Istanbul.
8 in. x 16 ft, 2014
tempered architectural glass, ultraviolet light, tin, silver nitrate, varnish, walnut wood
Simon Preston Gallery, New York,
120 x 88 inches, 2014
No items found.

SMOKE CLOUDS: Relying on intuition to guide the body in large gestures, I direct liquid silver nitrate with a pressured air wand over architectural glass, capturing the image of a cloud in mid-explosion: the dynamic residue of violence in the immediate aftermath of a moment of destruction.

The process of Smoke Clouds began in 2007 with my interest in the remains of violence after a moment of destruction. I was searching for the right material for the ephemeral nature of an evaporating and suspended explosion, with the possibility of the object’s removal. In 2008 I started experimenting with wallpaper flocking by doing gestural drawings via: flocking, a magnetic ground, and glue. The flocking didn’t really feel like an explosion. It looked like dirt on the wall (and so others said) and so I put it on the backburner for a few years.

It was only when we were doing demolition in our house in 2014, removing an old giant mirror that I made a connection. While the demo guys were moving the mirror to my studio, I noticed a puncture in the glass. I thought it was a hole, but in fact it was the mirroring that was separating from the glass. It was this moment that I saw the possibility of intervening with the material in a way that was optically and materially appropriate for my Smoke Cloud explosion.

That summer, I did research on glass with PPG Lab, attempting to break the glass, bend it in ways that the Blue Angels bent. I also began buying silver nitrate and working with Ana Martins at the MOMA conservation, who noted that silver was used for old photographic procesis. I began thinking of the glass as giant lens for which to receive memory. By sheer accident and through the outdoor set-up in my studio, I discovered a strange process in which UV light rays refracted and distorted the rays of light in which they bent through the glass. I used this natural element and the chance quality of the conditions to begin a series of performances on the glass with silver nitrate.

Silver Nitrate is a chemical, dangerous and finicky. It is sensitive to heat and humidity. Add myself to the process and it’s a nightmare. These are not simple pours. If I’m in fear or distracted in brain or body, the evidence is in the pour. In such cases, the pours are frenetic, small and timid—the exact opposite of a kind of epic-ness that I want the movement to express.

I know when the pour is right because the nitrate congeals on the glass and moves in a way that feels like smoke clouds. The light heat along with the nitrate will give off a smokey gas. It feels as if it is chemically making the smoke cloud. I have to do my own dance with the nitrate and move it with my pressure wand, and forcing it seems to be a mistake.

I like how the work acts as a mirage—being there and not there, depending on where you stand in the space. At other moments I hope it feels that you are standing amidst that moment of explosion. It reflects the environment and is on the verge of disappearing. This is what I think of when I think of sculpture, or at least what I want from it right now.                                       

Smoke Clouds require blindness in the studio. Silver nitrate and tin, even glass, are all clear materials when I manipulate and combine them. Even light, as it etches its rays into the glass in the process of "exposure", captures the air's alchemy and the surrounding conditions in mysterious ways. I am pouring material that I can't see. Only in the last moment, does the image appear.

All I know originates from my body: my body moves in a way to direct the material in order to find an ephemeral explosion or the residue of a past destruction. Sometimes the ghosts that the material captures are unable to render tension, and I must wipe away the gesture and begin again. My process requires my bodily participation to bring forward my presence and then ultimately it requires my removal, as the mirroring, environment, and the viewer's body all create the space, not me. My removal of image and artist's body are fundamental to Minimalism's questions of representation.


HALYARD: Having worked on the flag to its end and potentially its death in the show at the Aldrich (2014), I wondered where the idea could go from there. Was I directly objectifying the flag in a way that was too removed from the flag itself? Was it an idea of the idea? I began thinking ofdoing an installation with the actual flagpole itself at full scale and in context.

Often I’ve had this urge to puncture a space—go through a wallto hang a tree (2008), and in this case I wanted to go through the roof of aspace to insert a flagpole. For me I was interested in this idea of invisibility-- the flag being heard but not seen, violent but also manicured subversively into the architecture.

I had been considering the notion of iconography and the conditions of identity and power. Could I de-saturate an image by its removal? Could the trappings and the hardware of an image be enough of an undoing?

Jonathan Mildenberg and Andy Clifford, sound artists helped me develop the concept. Mildenberg helped me design a soundscape audio of aflapping flag. Andy Clifford further enhanced it with computer software thattracked the sound of the flag through the speakers to create a sculpturalmovement to the sound. Andy also designed the halyard rope to move insynchronicity with the sound of the flapping by exploiting the capabilities ofa speaker as a motor. The ropes were attached to a speaker, and every time theflag flapped, its vibrations moved the rope. As a result, the flagpole becomesthis lone figure.

People have asked why the mirrors with the flagpole? So much of my work has been shaped by a kind of post-9/11 lens, that experience that leaves a residue that is perceptually and cognitively so wrong, and then there is the clean-up and absence. So much of my experience of 9/11 was looking up in wonderment and confusion.

The summer I was making the mirrors, the Ferguson riots were happening. I was fascinated by images of the rioters standing in the smoke clouds. I had had this idea for a long time but its collision seemed right.Those Ferguson images seemed both a literal and metaphorical understanding ofthe experience of violence—its ghost-like quality and presence in theaftermath. This kind of veil was the thing I was most interested in because itsdisappearance was the content.

I’ve had a nagging feeling about sculpture. I’m attached to the object mainly because my experience as a child of seeing a great work of artfrom another time, shifted the data for me, so I believe in it. To me I thought the absence in both of those pieces was magnified by the sound piece as it moved through the entire space. It was both romantic, humorous, and I hope overturned the language of our public and private spaces.