For decades, the Los Angeles–based artist Lita Albuquerque has blurred distinctions between Land art and Light and Space on increasingly grander scales, whether it be building installations surrounding the pyramids in Egypt or placing sculptures across Antarctica to mirror the formation of the stars. Her cosmic explorations continue with two new bodies of work that are currently being shown at Kohn Gallery in Hollywood, from January 9 through February 27, 2016, and at USC’s Fisher Museum of Art, from January 26 through April 10, 2016. The latter exhibition will feature an opening performance by Albuquerque on January 24.
IN THE MID-1970’s, I started doing projects out in the environment that were about placing objects on the ground in relation to the horizon line or the mountains or the moon, and then it became about the stars. I’m very much of my time; when man landed on the moon I was twenty-two and we had never seen an image of the Earth from space. It was a seminal moment for my generation. I started having visions of mapping the stars on the Earth, and I didn’t know why. When I found out that Yves Klein had dreamed of writing his name on the back of the sky and claiming it for his work, and that Arman had claimed plenitude, I decided in the mid-1990s to claim the relationship between the Earth and the sky. I picked the color ultramarine to unite the two because of the intensity of the color—it had a certain vibration to it.
In recent years, I had this feeling to move toward more of a rose or a reddish pink or mauve, which is a much different feeling. Blue is expansive and spiritual; pink is more about the body. At Kohn, I’m showing a new series of paintings titled “Embodiment” in these colors, and they are really about the relationship between the body, the earth, and the sky. It’s a totally different work, and yet it runs parallel to what I’ve always done. It’s about activation through a vibrating language of pigments, while the new film I’m exhibiting at USC is about activation through a tonal language and music.
The film came from a text I wrote in 2003 about a twenty-fifth-century female astronaut whose mission is to teach the inhabitants of planet Earth the language of the stars. She lands in the year 6000 BCE in Mali—the beginning of civilization, more or less—and when she comes through the Earth’s atmosphere, she forgets her mission. I worked with a young composer named Robbie C. Williamson and an artist named Cassandra Bickman, who developed a tonal language for the character. The work is called 20/20: Accelerando; 2020 is a year, but it’s also the measurement of perfect vision. Accelerando is a musical term, but it also conveys the idea of an acceleration of consciousness.
My main interest is always being conscious of where the planet and the body are in space-time. In my film about a body coming to Earth, there’s this idea of an interstellar consciousness, and there’s an aspect of me in the character as well. She talks about how the language of the stars is like playing notes on a piano, practicing until you become fluent. We are related to the stars, we all know that, but to be fluent in that language is to understand our connectivity and to open up the body to the sublime.
-As told to Janelle Zara
Image: Lita Albuquerque, 20/20: Accelerando, 2016, three channel video, color, sound, 26 minutes 53 seconds. Courtesy of the artist and USC Fisher Museum of Art.