MARA DE LUCA

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Biography

Mara De Luca received a BA in Visual Arts from Columbia University and her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 2004. As a painter, De Luca's practice poetically engages with tensions between abstraction and figuration. In Stations (2006-2007), a series of fourteen paintings inspired by Barnett Newman's Stations of the Cross (1958-1964), De Luca layers a disparate array of appropriated images drawn from television, commercial advertising, and Baroque painting on top of meticulously painted canvases of abstract color. Evocative of Newman's own painterly aspirations for "the whole canvas [to] become color and have a sense of light," De Luca's Stations are a meditation on the ideologies of mass media. The artist continues these explorations in her recent series of paintings that gesture toward the natural landscape and visual culture of Los Angeles. Titled Sipario (translated from the Italian as "theatrical curtain" or "scrim"), the series comprises atmospheric paintings that mimic digitally generated imagery; these works might be described as "hyper-analog" representations of light and space. De Luca has been included in numerous group exhibitions at venues including Galerie Chromosome, Berlin; AbstruseSpace, London; and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, among others. Her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego.

-Cole Akers, 2012

General Artist's Statement

My work in Painting is a reflection on contemporary culture expressed though a diverse and project-driven approach to the medium. Whether through an exploration of historical conventions or by way of mimicking contemporary digital imaging tropes, I employ and exploit the complex range of the medium: its diverse genres and theoretical constructs as well as material, process and craft.

A mirroring between process and representation is a central aspect to my work, whereby what is being represented and the means by which it is being represented share conceptual significance. Often, in developing process-content relationships, I invent new ways of "making" paintings; as a result, my projects display diverse aesthetics rather than a coherent style. In recent projects, I have mimicked the aesthetics of minimalist abstraction to generate painterly effects; in other work, I have implemented "expressive" or gestural, hand-made approaches as a means of investigating the impersonal and pervasive realm of digital advertisement and media.

My paintings are often made as two-shot pictures of sublime effect: a pour of thinned acrylic paint onto unprimed raw canvas, overlaid with a transparent or opaque fabric collage - a process that bears a relationship to traditional glazing techniques. I approach the use of fabric overlays as a Duchampian ready-made element- a conceptual gesture integral to the process, visual effect and overall meaning of the painting. The fabric behaves in several ways, depending on how it's being used in each pictorial context; in some paintings, I think of the overlay as a literal scrim, with direct references to theatrical sets (behaving as instant atmosphere, as in: black scrim = night). The scrim also refers to art historical precedents, Romantic painterly effects (light, fog, clouds) cross-bred with California Light and Space works (Robert Irwin's scrim installations, for example).  In other pieces, where I've torn and manipulated the fabric, the overlay acts as painterly gesture, albeit without any paint or brush involved. I think of the collaged elements as analogous (in terms of the ideas I've mentioned above: instant atmospheric effect, theatricality and 'fake' painterly gesture) to the essence of what I've termed a "facile sublime" specific to Los Angeles, which ultimately is at the core of my work. 

I am most inspired by the visual and emotional experience of daily life in Los Angeles, a city of stark contradictions: stunning natural beauty coexisting in a cultural climate of facile content and saturated digital aesthetics. The paintings alternately reveal and disguise the processes by which they have been made through seamless, “ready-made” gradients and atmospheric overlays as well as grossly enlarged paint gestures and material ruptures. The paintings range from a synthetic to natural palette, relating to the Los Angeles landscape in terms of scale, depth and color while evoking the emotionally charged mood of source material- whether derived from literary sources or borrowed from imagery pervasive in mass media and billboard advertisement seen throughout the city.

-Mara De Luca