A Spotlite on Artist LALA ABADDON
By Lori Zimmer
The first time I saw Lala Abaddon’s work, I couldn’t help but be reminded of video art, specifically the work of Pipilotti Rist. This isn’t exactly a normal reaction, considering that her work couldn’t be farther from the video, or even digital, realm. Online, Abaddon’s gorgeous pieces can appear as digitally rendered pixilated creations, but in reality they are tactile masterpieces, meticulously hand-woven cut photographs that have the precision of imagery made on the computer. Despite being flat, her pieces–integrated photographs that create new imagery while giving glimpse of the original photograph–have such movement and vibrancy that my eye read each work as if it were moving. During a time of both an art boom, and a self-inflicted A.D.D. generation, it is refreshing to see an artist that is challenging a traditional medium, while also creating beautiful work that requires hours and hours of handiwork.
Abaddon’s latest show, “Fractal Realities,” which opened February 26th at Castor Gallery, is the artist’s first solo exhibition, and is a wild success. Aside from her masterfully woven works, the artist has transformed the gallery’s lower level into an experience akin to stepping into one of her weavings. Downstairs, the lush grass floor is mirrored by a sculpture of swirling branches, which reach toward visitors from the ceiling. The branches are hung with double-sided woven pieces that glint and sparkle as the room is enveloped in stop animation projections, set to soothing sounds. The experience, amid this seemingly endless winter, is refreshing, and honestly left me feeling a bit hopeful and eager for spring.
I sat down with Abaddon to talk about her new show, her unique process, and of course, weaving.
Lori Zimmer: Have you always worked in cut paper?
Lala Abaddon: Not always, though I really began enjoying cut paper in various ways a few years ago. Something about the delicate nature and impermanence of paper has always attracted me to it. I was a bibliophile for a long time so paper has meant more to me than images created visually; I”ve always been interested in creating an image for the mind, through words or otherwise.
LZ: What was your early work like?
LA: Most of my early work was photography based, so photographs paired with some kind of poetry, GIFs, short movies, etc. I don”t think that my early work, though, is representative of me as an artist. I was trying things on and really just developing the ability to work with light and photography. Really, all that lead up to what I am doing now was just a lot of practice for the real thing.
LZ: How did you develop your process of intricately weaving paper?
LA: I”d been struggling with finding a way to create more than one image within an image and write more of a narrative with photography, so one day when I cut two small prints into strips and wove them together, which had a lot of motion and an interesting composition created from what seemed like chaos to me. That first weave was your basic basket weave, and from there I just made up my own patterns on the spot because the basic grid weave seemed stagnant and boring after one use. It took off from there and I quickly became obsessed with weaving, working on smaller 8×10 works then up to 16×20, 30×40, etc. It became an obsession that kind of replaced a lot of my older obsessions.
LZ: You reference historical weaving in your works, can you tell us where you source certain weaves from?
LA: Weaving is a very welcoming community so there are endless books and references for weaving in the library and on the internet. I just scour old books for interesting drafts and weaving concepts and work with a couple free weaving programs to make my own. The more you research weaving, the more you understand that there are basic structural rules to certain types of weaves and once you grasp that it is way easier to make them and weave them. I won”t tell you where I have sourced from though, which is a decision I have been weighing for some time now since I usually adopt a transparent approach to my process, but the research I do to find/create these patterns is ongoing and has taken me a long time to build up. I will just encourage others who are interested in weaving to just start with Google, there is endless information out there and you will be surprised with what you find and what specifically speaks to you.
LZ: Do you find people confuse your pieces for being digitally created?
LA: From afar and on the internet, yes, but a lot of what I am trying to say with my work is “have a closer look.” Nothing is as it seems, and we tend to go through images so quickly these days, I enjoy that people at first glance think that one thing is true, but upon further focus, find a completely different truth. I feel when things like that happen, it is the work speaking to you, and I”ve really wanted to spin that misconception into a conceptual component of the work itself. The way I have been developing this is by rephotographing certain photographs/ paintings from the computer screen to create a pixelated effect. When the weave is complete it looks blurry or low res even though it is printed at hi-res. It messes with my head visually, but it also says a lot about the state of photography these days, with the prevalence of phone cameras and appropriation of captured images.
LZ: You have a new show that opened February 26th at Castor Gallery on the Lower East Side, can you tell us a bit about “Fractal Realities”?
LA: “Fractal Realities” is kind of a glimpse into my world. I”ve spent a lot of time in my own head. Nose in a book or eyes on the movie screen, eyes open but daydreaming of a different world–I also have a very active dream life which has been effecting my waking world for some years now. So “Fractal Realities” is kind of a bunch of windows to alternate lives I am living at any given moment. It also tries to exemplify the liminal spaces we encounter between being asleep and awake or between life and death.
LZ: Has “Fractal Realities” differed from your past work?
LA: A bit, both structurally and conceptually. Mostly it is my process that has evolved and I have incorporated new materials and sculptural elements into my work. With this show, each piece has an element of nature juxtaposed with a photographed painted work of my own, but they also are the simultaneous existence of a series of moments that I have experienced in this life or another. The subject matter is vastly more abstract, and I have incorporated new techniques and levels of deconstruction/reconstruction into the work. I kind of am using the new techniques to allude to what I want to do next with my work, which goes more into process and deconstruction while working on a more abstract level with a longer vision for the outcome–meaning works that take me longer to produce with even more crazy attention to detail.
LZ: What are you inspired by?
LA: Usually riding the subway inspires me, going within my own mind, down the deepest well, flashing lights, the composition of a shape of space where paint is peeling in the subway–specifically this one spot on the D train by MOMA. Basically the random compositions I find throughout this city and the world visually and literally. I”m constantly amazed, but what I observe of this world and am seriously into is space, time, science, science fiction, metaphysical theories, etc. Other people”s art also inspires me. Though sometimes I can”t tell you the artists” name, I am constantly taking in what other people have made and are making and try to understand my attraction or distaste with their work and its interplay with its surroundings and time.
LZ: What’s next?
LA: A longer process, more deconstruction and reconstruction. I”m interested in working on multiple large scale pieces that, once woven, will be cut down, burned or ripped apart into smaller pieces, for them to build a larger composition. With this last show I incorporated new materials (wire, thread, crystals etc) into the framed works and want to continue to explore new materials and new types of papers. I want to continue to explore sculptural forms and break out of the framed arena, focusing more on transformative, immersive installations and pieces that pull you into alternate states of being, if only for a moment. I also see that my color palate is changing, and really want to make a very dark work- something I have been thinking about for a long time. That will probably be the first thing I sink into after this show. But first I will need to paint and photograph for a few weeks to build up my photo archive again, for this new thing I am seeing.
Lala Abaddon is a Brooklyn based artist working in hand woven photographs.
Written by Lori Zimmer
All Images Courtesy of Lala Abaddon
Design by Mina Darius
All Images Courtesy of Lala Abaddon