Earth raised up her head
From the darkness dread and drear,
Her light fled,
And her locks covered with grey despair.
-From Earth's Answer, William Blake (Songs of Experience)
If true experience is the fall from innocence after exposure to the material world and all of its mortal sin, how can art perform a historical reversal to bravely say that true innocence does not come before experience but after it, and possible only by bearing through it?
The work of Michelle Lopez emerges from this burning question and takes experience as its medium. Experience here takes many forms – the bonding of brutality and grace, the natural and the synthetic – yet Lopez's most poignant material being the intangible force with which she guides her whole exhibition as if guiding the eye of the storm: the Artist's appropriation of her own historical situation. The Violent Bear It Away documents Lopez's movement through the sociopolitical system of the art world at large, the jagged flight of her own career and the intimately personal and micro-political choices she has had to negotiate at every turn.
There is more than one way to manage a disaster and multiple modes of "damage control" (as we've learned to say when applied to 'issues' of the psyche). We've seen societies like our own become destroyed by a controlling, pathological relationship to disaster, either by its compulsion to rush in and seal the shattered surface of a collective fantasy and repress all that threatens to interrupt it, or by deceptively pointing to the existence of disaster where it does not exist, simply to legitimize the unacceptable i.e. torture. The sculptures in The Violent Bear It Away reject these adverse pathologies and forge a path towards the truth of the artist's practice and the truth of the artist's life, deformities in tact. Lopez's installation is at once the actual threshold or limit of her historical progression as an artist, as well as the passage to an on linear practice of time and space where innocence – through experience – is in a messianiac state of return.
In it's scarred and startling presence, the body of work in The Violent Bear It Away has less to do with rising from the ruins and ashes of the past than the significantly more radical message at the core of Michelle Lopez's project – what it means in the present to be on fire. With the sheer velocity of an idea and a healthy social support system, an artist can take flight, and with the same speed and intensity she can also crash, but "Art is the only thing that can go on mattering once it has stopped hurting."1