An Interview with Pamela Jorden, Artist and Curator for the group show "Sun Zoom Spark" at WPA in Chinatown, Los Angeles, California

Sun Zoom Spark Interview
The following interview took place on Facebook between April 6, 2010 and April 18, 2010. Pamela Jorden is an artist and curator based in Los Angeles. Her current curatorial project is entitled "Sun Zoom Spark," featuring work by Julie Becker, Katy Crowe, Pamela Jorden, Alice Könitz, Virginia Holt, and Terri Phillips. It is being shown at WPA in Chinatown, Los Angeles until April 25, 2010. Pamela and I discuss both the concept of the exhibition, and the artists and artwork. 



Mario Vasquez - April 6 at 8:48pm

How did the idea of Sun Zoom Spark come about?


Pamela Jorden - April 10 at 10:43am

Initial thoughts that led to this group show came from a painting in my studio. I have worked on this painting for over a year, off and on, experimenting a bit with reflection and symmetry and pattern. I was thinking about this painting in terms of mirroring gesture in a composition, but then I sort of realized it was more of a kaleidoscopic thing, my mirroring became fragmented and ruptured. These ideas interested me, and I thought I could take this opportunity at WPA to consider how these ideas manifest in other artists' work, and in the context of a group show, how commonalities between artworks resonate.

I organized this show in a similar fashion to how I work on a painting. I don't begin with a preconceived idea. I sort of explore and respond. I did studio visits with artists that I have always really admired, and thought about qualities of reflection, energy, light, and movement in their work. Our discussions developed the show. Through conversations with Virginia Holt, I learned how music and pop culture inspired her paintings. She is a great fan and acquaintance of Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet is also an amazing painter), and Virginia's interest in him reintroduced me to his music and poetry, which is so beautifully energetic, frenetic and fractured. Sun Zoom Spark is the name of a song on the Clear Spot record. These lyrics about movement and magnetism, the force and effect of light, the questions where it starts and ends or which is the bottom or top, all seems so relevant to an artist's process. 

Mario Vasquez - April 10 at 11:02am
When I saw the show and read the press release, I started to think about the Kaleidoscopic vision of pictures fragmented and in light swirling in motion. The kaleidoscope was invented by Sir David Brewster in 1816 while conducting experiments on light polarization. It was initially a scientific tool that became a toy. I also started to think of artist like the Cubist who were exploring sort of the same approach to the image, in that the views of one image were fragmented and multiple view were placed in one picture plane. Orphic Cubism approached Cubism as a metaphysical matter. I hope this compliments the approach that you took when developing the ideas of the show. I want to start talking about each individual artist. Let's start with Julie Becker. There are two works by her entitled "The Voyage" and "Inquiry Into a Limited Land." What did you see in her work that fit the ideas about the Kaleidoscope and about that construction of such vision?



Pamela Jorden - April 11 at 12:23pm

When I visited Julie, we looked at a lot of her drawings, and I loved the drawings of mirrors. The mirrors are made with reflective foil. When you stand in front of "The Voyage", you don't see yourself reflected in the rectangle of silver foil. The drawing captures and reflects a rainbow effect of color and light. Depending on where you stand in the room, sometimes the drawing looks like it is on fire with color. There are two round side mirrors, almost like vanity mirrors, one with a subtle pattern of a universe with planets and stars. In "The Voyage" there is a list of necessities for your astral voyage: spirit, energy, matter, form. You can see yourself as you peer into "Inquiry into a Limited Land", but the reflection is distorted and changing like a fun house mirror. It reflects the view in front of it - the light of the gallery, the viewer standing, the white walls, and the other artwork in the show - but distorts, reconstructs, and processes the information. The mirrors in Julie's drawings are like portals that present a reflection that is fractured and distorted, not unlike putting your eye to a kaleidoscope.



In all of Julie's work, she invites you to take part in physical or mental exploration. I participated in a photo shoot for her "Golden Force Field" project about 10 years ago. She asked three friends to sit at different places in her studio as she photographed the energy conjured by golden dots placed in the corners of the room. The experience was fun, but also quite serious. With a heightened sense of the air around us, we were waiting, watching, feeling the energy in the room. I love the mystery in Julie's work, also that work is really a result of a viewer's participation.

Mario Vasquez - April 11 at 6:10pm
Now let's talk about Alice Konitz. I am a huge fan of Alice's work. I was happy to see her art in this show. There are two works in the show, one is OLLIE, which is a large scale sculpture, and the other is a small work entitled Z.M.C.P.M. I fell in love with both. In the 2008 Whitney Biennial catalog, it describes her work as a "riff on midtwentieth- century modernist furniture and public art, while her installations of drawings, films, collages, and homemade magazines contextualize her monolithic geometric forms as both a celebration and a critique of design vernacular." Tell me about these works. Were these works made exclusively for the show?

Pamela Jorden - April 13 at 9:08am
Alice made OLLIE for the show. Recently, Alice has been thinking about public sculpture. She described this piece as a "familiar form", something comprised of recognizable shapes or patterns, a configuration that we know but maybe is somewhat out of context. This sculpture has a symmetrical pattern; an arrangement of discs painted half silver and half matte brown. What I have always appreciated about Alice's work is the handmade quality. You can see the brush strokes and the rough edges of the cut wood. These discs aren't machine cut to perfection. She cuts and constructs everything herself, makes adjustment along the way, and in the case of OLLIE, the configuration isn't exactly what she planned for when she started. But her work never seems haphazard to me. This piece is actually really solid in spite of the fact that it is made with lightweight materials that disassemble easily. I love her idea that this piece could be a "limitless formation" infinitely expandable. Z.M.C.P.M Only Alice knows what the letters stand for. This is a small piece that was hanging around in her studio. It could be a model for larger sculpture, but it is completely resolved at this scale too. If she did make a large version, I could see it constructed with exactly the same materials: foam core, string, paint.

Alice also makes videos and films that feature her sculptures as props or characters or costumes for her actor/collaborators. We will screen a new film called "The Premonition" and a 2006 video collaboration with Stephanie Taylor on the closing evening of the Sun Zoom Spark show. There is a large curious sculpture in "The Premonition" that is made partly of facetted mirror slats that reflect the passage of a raft along a lush part of the Los Angeles River. A couple characters adjust the slats to make visible what happened or what will happen. The mirrored forms become invisible as they reflect what is all around and an odd narrative unfolds.

What I really appreciate about Alice's work and all the pieces in the show is that they have an openness that allows the viewer to interpret them in many ways. I think all of this work is energetic, playful, and mysterious which is why the Captain Beefheart lyrics seemed to make sense with my ideas. I was happy to learn from our conversations that Captain Beefheart, his music and album covers, has inspired Alice's video work and some of Terri's drawings.



Mario Vasquez - April 13 at 1:21pm
I also liked Terri Phillips' work in the show. The only work that kinda seemed out of place was the "Satellite of Love" sculpture. I look at it as a cross between Post-Minimalism meets Sci-Fi. I did not see the Kaleidoscopic vision that is seen in other works in the show. I might be wrong? Tell me about the two works, "Paris Window" and "Satellite of Love."


Pamela Jorden - April 14 at 2:11pm
Although it may not appear kaleidoscopic, Terri’s sculpture embodies the kind of energy that I hoped the show would convey or produce. She describes the sculpture as a joyful piece that she made for her son, full of positive energy and suggesting movement and travel. I like that she uses readily available materials that she finds at the hobby shop, hardware stores, or the grocery store. I love her odd choices. The rocket platform is made out of cardboard, tape, fur, and foil, and the rocket ship is painted ceramic. We talked a bit about the tactility of her objects and also their fragility. Fragile is a tough word because it might imply something weak or tenuous, but Terri’s sculptures always have a very powerful presence in a room. We have also talked about the color silver. The base of “Satellite of Love” is a box covered with silver duct tape. When I first photographed the piece, this box almost looked invisible as it reflected light and the floor and nearby wall. Terri describes silver as magical and changing, which makes me think of mercury and alchemy more than a hard shiny metal. Terri’s use of silver nicely compliments the silver in Julie and Alice’s work too.

“Paris Window” is a photograph that Terri took while traveling in 1995. A retro sci-fi rocket is busting through the wall of a window display of modern conveniences for the kitchen. In a way it looks like it could be an installation of Terri’s sculptures. This display is a collage of old and new, fantastic and domestic, and I think this is really part of her attraction to it. Her sculptures often reference something like a delicate object from a curio cabinet, or like you mention a minimalist form.


 

Mario Vasquez - April 14 at 4:48pm
I want to discuss the last three artists, Katy Crowe, Virginia Holt and your work, together because looking at each of your works I see a dialogue that is present. I do see the Kleidoscopic vision in all your work. I am reminded of the works of Robert and Sonia Delaunay with their use of strong color and experimentation. In this years Whitney Biennial, the curators state that "artists attempt to build collectivity in a new historical moment... (while) other artists look back to the history of modernism, in particular abstraction, as one way to forge a personal, experimental language while also rejuvenating the social potential of abstraction." Do you feel that this may accurately describe the works and the process of the show?





Pamela Jorden - April 17 at 7:34pm
I have a postcard of Robert Delaunay’s “Simultaneous Contrasts: Sun and Moon” hanging in my studio. It is such a super round painting. I really like the idea of a painting as an experiment in which color has weight and energy with the power to harmonize or disrupt. This is something that I play out in my painting practice with the intention of creating problems as much as solving them. My painting is a new direction or re-direction back into working with color. I wanted this painting to appear tumbling. I like the relationship between it and the invitation image, a photograph by my husband John Pearson.


Color play and experimentation is really important to painters in this show. Katy’s “Boo” is painted with just a few colors. The simplicity of the oddly symmetrical composition is complicated by the really subtle color relationships. I like the contrast between the maroon diamond shapes on the left hand side and the washy grayish purple on the right side. The colors in Katy’s painting seem kind of fleeting to me, especially affected by what is going on in the room. In relationship to Alice’s sculpture, that weird gray/purple looks silver to me. Color in a painting can appear so different depending on a viewer’s perspective and the quality of light in a room. Virginia describes an experience (in a statement about her life and work) of descending Mt. Whitney with her husband on a moonlit night. She talks about the “switchbacks” in the path and how the light changed from pitch black to bright moonlight as their direction changed during the winding descent. These switchbacks, traversing light and dark, certainty and uncertainty, she used as a metaphor for her experience of life as an artist.

Virginia’s “Portrait of Lady (Mary Jane)” is a painting of her good friend Mary Jane Moffat who was an actress and a writer. Virginia told me that Mary Jane asked, “How do you want me to be?” when she sat for her portrait. I think this question amused Virginia because she had no plan to orchestrate a static composition or maybe wouldn’t ask her friend to “be” any certain way. When I first saw this painting I was so enamored with the color and the way the face was painted, I didn’t even see the figure within the circular brushstrokes. The pink wash of the ground is as beautifully subtle as a Rothko painting, and the purple, cadmiums, and turquoise frame the figure, and create a vortex of energy, animating, spinning, while the face with its intense eyes and warm glow that falls across the mouth and cheek perches above all that energy to capture a moment. Virginia’s small paintings are beautiful examples of color relationships, with shapes almost like body parts interrelated and balancing each other in the composition, a picture of shared space.

I do agree that through abstraction an artist can forge a personal, experimental language. I’m really attracted to artists that work with an idiosyncratic practice, that might look back to a historical visual language, but don’t make art about art per se. Abstract art can be disorienting or confounding (or I should say I appreciate art when it is so), and I enjoy when I have to imagine an artist’s thought process to get my bearings and make some sense of what I’m looking at. I feel like this is the social aspect of a group exhibition of diverse artworks, getting a group of people and their work together in conversation.


Mario Vasquez - April 18 at 10:14am

Final question(s). What are your final thoughts about the exhibition? Were there any artists that you would've like to have in the show that share the same approach? Thank you Pamela.



Pamela Jorden - April 18 at 9:05pm

WPA is a collective of thirteen artists. As a group we run the gallery ourselves, installing, gallery sitting, organizing whatever it is that needs to get done, so therefore, I’ve spent a lot of time with this show and talking with people who visit the gallery, which was a really a great experience. It was important to me to bring together a group of artists with the shared experience of making work in Los Angeles and to make a public space for conversations that I have had or want to have with these artists.

The decision to put this group of artists together came quickly for me. I’m especially honored to show a few of Virginia Holt’s amazing paintings. Hopefully, there will be an exhibition somewhere soon of her large-scale burlap paintings along with these beautiful small works. A few other artists came to mind later.. but that’s another show. John Pearson’s amazing video work and photography was an inspiration for this show; especially his first person perspective and investigation of sunlight. We will have a screening of the last evening of the show that will include videos by John, Alice, Julie, Terri, and a few special guests.

Thanks Mario.


Gallery open 12-6pm, Thursday - Sunday or by appointment.


All Photos are courtesy of WPA - Los Angeles

List of Photos - Images from Top to Bottom:
Installation View - Main Gallery
Virginia Holt - Portrait of Lady Mary Jane
Virginia Holt - Small Landscape #51
 
Julie Becker - The Voyage
Julie Becker - Inquiry into a Limited Land
 
Alice Konitz - OLLIE
Alice Konitz - Z.M.C.P.M.
 
Terri Phillips - Satellite of Love
Terri Phillips - Paris Window
 
Virginia Holt - Untitled #29
Virginia Holt - Untitled #30
Virginia Holt - Untitled #59
 
Katie Crowe - Boo
Katie Crowe - Boo 2
Katie Crowe - Untitled

Pamela Jorden - Pirate
Pamela Jorden - Untitled



Installation View - Main Gallery

Installation View - Office Gallery
Installation View - Main Gallery

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