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Sig17 Untitled_refuge_07 Untitled_crossword_07 Two_shades_72dpi The_brick_piece_07 Ps1_panomid_web Ps1_horzh_blur_web_t Ps1_trapdoor_web Ramshackle_72dpi
'rak'rüm (noun);
the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
Untitled (For Rent), Lisa SigalLisa Sigal, Untitled (For Rent),
2007, wallpaper, paint, 85x54x27 in
© Courtesy of Frederieke Taylor Gallery
Untitled (Refuge), Lisa SigalLisa Sigal, Untitled (Refuge),
2007, wallpaper, newspaper, paint, 96x39x46 in
Untitled (Crossword), Lisa SigalLisa Sigal, Untitled (Crossword),
2007, wallpaper, newspaper, paint, tape, 51x54x27 in
Two Shades, Lisa SigalLisa Sigal, Two Shades,
2007, wallpaper, painted sheet rock, ceramic tile, 96x36 in
The Brick Piece, Lisa SigalLisa Sigal, The Brick Piece,
2007, wallpaper, sheet rock, 102x54x16 in
PS1 (detail), Lisa SigalLisa Sigal, PS1 (detail),
2007, mixed media, dimensions variable
PS1 (detail - horizontal blur), Lisa SigalLisa Sigal, PS1 (detail - horizontal blur),
2007, mixed media, dimensions variable
PS1 (detail - trap door), Lisa SigalLisa Sigal, PS1 (detail - trap door),
2007, mixed media, dimensions variable
Ramshackle, Lisa SigalLisa Sigal, Ramshackle,
2003, caesin, joint component, sheet rock, 12x53 ft
A House of Many Mansions, Lisa SigalLisa Sigal, A House of Many Mansions,
2005, mixed media with wallpaper, dimensions variable
Architectural Shadows, Lisa SigalLisa Sigal, Architectural Shadows,
2004, mixed media, dimensions variable
Heap, Lisa SigalLisa Sigal, Heap,
2001, wall painting, 13x14 ft
On the Edge, Lisa SigalLisa Sigal, On the Edge,
2007, mixed media, dimensions variable
Multiple Cities 3 , Lisa SigalLisa Sigal, Multiple Cities 3 ,
2009, Acrylic on panel , 36 x 24 inches
© Frederieke Taylor Gallery
, Lisa SigalLisa Sigal
, Lisa SigalLisa Sigal
© Courtesy of the Artist and LAXART
Lisa Sigal's fourth solo show at Frederieke Taylor gallery, titled "Tent Paintings," was on view from November 29, 2007 through January 12, 2008. For a number of years, Lisa Sigal has been conflating building with the act of making art. Architecture becomes surface and painting can become shelter. Questioning the way in which space is measured and mediums are defined, Sigal plays wi...[more]

Interview with Lisa Sigal

ArtSlant’s writer, Yaelle Amir, visited with Lisa Sigal in late December, 2007, and talked about Lisa’s process, her new work and her relationship to painting and architecture.  Sigal’s 4th solo show at Frederieke Taylor Gallery in New York was on view from November 29, 2007 through January 12, 2008, and she was included in the Whitney Biennial in March, 2008.


Yaelle Amir: I know you started out as a painter – how did your venture into the realm of sculpture/site-specific work come about? 


Lisa Sigal: I understand why people would categorize my work as sculpture or installation but that way of seeing my work only takes into account a quick impression.  My language is a painter's language. Seen as sculptures they fail in every possible way. 


The first time I did a wall painting was in an exhibition at Frederieke Taylor gallery. I spent a month in the summer working on a 40 ft painting that began at the entrance and extended along the length of the gallery. Because of the layout of the space, you could not see the whole painting at once; a viewer saw the painting in his /her peripheral vision, walking along the painted wall. What interested me was the viewers’ relationship to the image and the wall, which is quite different then looking at a traditional stretched canvas.


Most paintings are an invitation for the viewer to leave the space of the room, and enter into the space of the painting. There is a certain suspension of judgment and imagination required to experience a painting.  I think the demands of the painted space are problematic for some viewers – mainly the kind that state they do not know how to look at paintings, which is always a surprise to me. But this resistance is also what I love about painting.  The wall painting was especially interesting when seen with my other stretched canvases in the gallery – it was as if I was saying "you have to now physically enter into my world and walk around." This is when I began to think about architecture and painting together.    


The show which I eerily titled Stone to Wind, opened on September 11th, 2001.  The tragedy and heartache of the months to follow eclipsed all the individual events in our lives in New York.  I had anticipated the opening of this show and had been wrapped up in my own process which seemed very full at the time, and then post 9/11 the painting and the show became an empty experience. For about a year afterwards, making art felt meaningless. I could not really bring myself to make paintings during that time. I began walking around the city a lot; watching people in their routines, witnessing how other people bring meaning to their lives, which was a way for me to ground myself again. I began to notice the architecture of the city, and how it punctuates the sky and fills the voids.  Walls and sheet rock had become much more fragile and poignant. I decided that it would be interesting to transplant the walls of my studio that I had already started painting on, to another space—to take what had been private into the public. When I was evicted from my studio, I took all the walls with me and installed them in Artists Space in 2003.  


YA: I noticed in your current exhibition that you exposed inconspicuous architectural elements in the gallery space – do you look for anything specific in a space when you are planning your installation?


LS: I do not have that much control of the spaces that I am asked to work in. The challenges and unforeseen characteristics of a space often bring elements into the work, which add to the way it is perceived.  I have always found that what I initially see as a problem usually becomes a gift by the end of the installation (like a 5 x 5 ft vent in the middle of a wall I was painting at Real Art Ways in Connecticut).


At Artists Space, for example, it was interesting because I wanted to talk about instability by bringing my dismantled studio walls into a gallery and leaning them against their walls that I had imagined to be part of the structure of the building.  Meanwhile the wall that I was given to work on was actually a false wall that ended before the ceiling and was built in front of a bank of windows. This wall was as much a fiction as my own.  I basically painted my painting into the architecture of the gallery, and flattened the architecture into my painting.  


The type of art I make teeters on failure. If you hang a painting on a wall and concentrate on what you are looking at—the physicality of the wall behind it disappears.  But in my case the painting is often part of the room and it occupies the same space as the viewer – it really cannot exist in the same way that a painting can – it is in between these two things. It is still interesting to me to think about what is actually disappearing—the painting itself or the wall? I feel that it flips back and forth between them.  


YA: Where do you get your materials? Do they carry a particular significance? Do they represent more than their aesthetic nature?


LS: The materials I use are often recycled or found. Most of the time, I use construction materials – something that you would build a certain room in a house with.  For my show Tent Paintings, I found some of the wallpaper I used in order to make the work, but I also purchased more when I recognized what it did to the structures.


I am a real scavenger, so it was nice to realize that collecting has become part of my work.  I hate wasting anything. 


YA: Do you sometimes start a work from a certain found material?


LS:  Sometimes I decide to use a material without understanding why. Then a year or two later the reason becomes clear.  I began to use wallpaper because I was thinking about how people express beauty or their taste in the spaces that they live in. In my own work the wallpaper is absurd. It does not decorate a wall but becomes the shelter. It is the yearning to make a place that is one's own and to make that place as beautiful as it could be given the limitations. The pieces are all parasites of the wall.


YA: I am interested in the contrasting elements in the exhibition:  On the one hand you display works that are very much attached to the foundation of the space, both conceptually and physically;  on the other hand, you created tent-like sculptures that appear very precarious and impermanent, as they are fundamentally nomadic structures.  


LS: The work in this show might have contrasting elements as you say, but I see them as being conflicted works. I see the conflict between the desire to be contained in a space of one’s own making and the limitation of freedom. You refer to the tent form as being nomadic – and it is in definition – but in reality, can you really imagine these tents in the street? No. The tents exist dependent upon the walls that they are taped to, they are made of paper that will eventually collapse and become trash. The walls are also paper that can be sliced into, in the desire for more air and light.    


YA: In the past, you talked about the fluid boundaries between real and imaginary in your works.  Could you talk a bit about this in relation to the new works? Do you refer to the materiality of the works (found and associative materials vs. amorphous forms), or is it more abstract and experiential? 

LS:  The fluid boundaries between what is real and imagined is the key to understanding the piece I recently created in the Boiler Room at P.S.1. The walls are very porous and nothing can be adhered to them, so I realized that I could not do what I usually do to the walls. I ended up building my own walls which became a frame for a painted space. On the threshold, the viewers peer into a space which is ambiguous. The space suggests inhabitants in the past or perhaps in the present. I was interested in the space being seen as a construction that might be fiction or a place that could be occupied. The wall that divides interior from exterior results in a strange division—it is hard to imagine that the spaces on either side of the wall are both in the boiler room.


I worked in the space for a week without cutting the peepholes, thinking that if the piece was going to work I had to just be in it, and make it without observing it.  I wanted to keep myself from objectifying the experience for as long as possible.  I was literally making a three-dimensional painting. There are five different peepholes: one room that looks like a fragment of a school house, another room is like a tenement with hallways and partitioned areas, a hole that you cannot actually see anything but light from behind, and the middle passage with a trap door that appears as if it was recently used. When you look through the long horizontal slit of the trap door you can see the process – the materials, paint and piles of newspapers. It is then that you realize that what you are looking at may not be true. I am interested in imagining into what is real, without erasing the tension between surfaces.

ArtSlant would like to thank Lisa Sigal for her assistance in making this interview possible.

--Yaelle Amir

(All images courtesy of the artist)


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