Given paper’s traditional composition of pulp, fibers and other natural materials, it feels appropriate that Atlanta-based artist Lucha Rodriguez uses this medium to create textural, three-dimensional artwork that resembles organic shapes. She carefully hand-cuts her material into sprawling growths that look like ambiguous, looping entrails. Currently on 24-hour view in the outdoor Glass Cube at Hotel Indigo, “Amorphous Dislocations of Ultramarine” is a site-specific installation embodying her expertise in growing these abstract organic forms.
Swirling upwards from the center of the floor, thin sheets of cut paper mushroom into a cloud of hanging shapes like a willow tree. An embedded mirror on the back wall allows viewers to imagine themselves physically present within the scene from where they stand behind the glass. In the daylight, intricate layers of clean, white shapes are accentuated by translucent colored film that casts softly tinted shadows. After nightfall, LED lights kick in to bathe the space in cool tones of violet, indigo and ultramarine. Gently morphing colors, in combination with the illusion of floating structures, make the Glass Cube resemble an aquarium.
Rodriguez’s interest in organic forms was sparked at an early age while flipping through the pages of her father’s extensive collection of medical illustration books. Though they are not intended to represent specific organs, each irregular shape is individually cut as a mental reconstruction of these images seen in the past. The structures appear to be in a constant state of movement or evolution as the eye traces their growth across the room. She also incorporates geometric shapes and sharp angles into her work, which creates a tension with the loose, flowing curves of the bodily forms.
The majority of Rodriguez’s artwork gravitates towards a limited color palette of white and hot pink, with the occasional pop of black or fluorescent yellow. She most frequently uses white as the surface color for cutting her intricate pieces, adding pink as an accent. This narrow combination of colors leads the eye to focus on repetition, balance and negative spaces within the designs.
“I have always been fascinated by the color pink,” says Rodriguez. “It has a strong expressive power in both art and popular culture. The qualities we associate with the color pink range from sensitive, youthful, artificial and sweet to unreal, eccentric, vulnerable and kitschy. I feel there’s a deep connection between color and its different meanings that makes people react differently.”
After receiving a BFA in graphic design from the Art Institute of Atlanta and an MFA in printmaking from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Rodriguez began experimenting with the unique properties of paper. Pushing paper’s two-dimensional nature into more sculptural forms, she began cutting out old etchings and reassembling them into new compositions. Eventually, these cutouts began to outgrow their wall-bound frames, leading her into creating site-specific installations that transform simple rooms into detailed environments.
“I’m continuously thinking about the work I make and how to translate it into various scales and spaces,” says Rodriguez. “The thing I enjoy the most about creating an entire room installation is that the shapes exist to be seen all around from all angles. It is always more challenging to present work that floats rather than [work that’s] attached to a wall, but it also presents more freedom to explore various directions within the room—not just following the pre-established direction of the walls.”
Every location presents a specific set of qualities that challenges Rodriguez to consider the limitations of physical space, the roles of light and shadows and the practicalities of hanging materials. After taking photos and measuring dimensions, she begins cutting, twisting and bending paper in her studio. Guided by sketches that inform the overall flow and direction of the work, she then intuitively arranges the pieces within the installation.
“Each temporary paper installation is a chance to step into a different world than what you are used to seeing, and momentarily escape from your everyday routine,” she says. “We all need the opportunity to see different layers of reality outside our highly structured lives. I create a new space within already-existing spaces for people to unexpectedly disconnect from reality, however briefly it may be.”
“Amorphous Dislocations of Ultramarine” will remain on view in the Glass Cube through April.
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