The idea of envisioning a future through the real or imagined ruin and decay of the present flows throughout “Lost Paradise,” a group exhibition featuring works by Diana Al-Hadid, Mathias Kessler, and Julião Sarmento. Through sculptures, a video, photographs, and paintings, viewers are encouraged to meditate on the meaning of memory and the signs that mark the passage of time. They are also asked to fill in the blanks, finish the story, and simply dream.
Diana Al-Hadid’s commanding yet delicate sculptures recall the order and precision of architecture. They draw upon the history of ancient cultures while referencing science and the natural world. In this new work, Al-Hadid moves away from these themes in order to explore painting in three-dimensional space. Her seeming fascination with defying gravity is evident in Trace of a Fictional Third (2011). Using a white stepped pedestal as a base, the structure seems to reach upward while simultaneously recalling a waterfall with its palette of iridescent creams, glossy salmon pinks, minty greens, lilacs, and washed out maroons that seem to flow back toward the earth. The fluidity, flexibility, and openness inherent in the sculpture belie the sureness of the medium that Al-Hadid achieves through casting its forms.
Mathias Kessler’s series of photographs, “Picher, Oklahoma,” present barren and open landscapes, which on first glance hearken to the mystery and possibility of undiscovered lands. Picher is now a ghost town, having been abandoned due to environmental poisoning from its old lead and zinc mines. Kessler’s series also includes aerial photos from the town’s hall of records. Like ancient ruins, the homes, businesses, and meeting halls of Picher no longer remain, only the concrete shells of their footprint. In a video shot from the artist’s car, a former resident of the town tells viewers what used to be, contradicting the mournful desolation Kessler’s photographs might suggest.
Julião Sarmento’s paintings and drawings of figures and places in the 2009 “Women and Houses and Plants” series also evoke what was while also trying to imagine what might have been. The works consist of architecturally rendered exteriors or floor plans of places the artist has known or lived coupled with photographs or drawings of flowers or women. While one portion of a piece might be precisely rendered in graphite, polyvinyl acetate, pigments, and acrylic gesso, Sarmento incorporates the silkscreen process to render the other as pixilated, ephemeral, and nearly ambiguous, much like life itself.
~Lee Ann Norman
Images: Diana Al-Hadid, Trace of a Fictional Third (2011); Installation view. Photo credit: Jason Wyche. Courtesy of the artists and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York.