March 9–April 22, 2012
Laguna Gloria Gatehouse Gallery
Leah Haney creates implausible, yet absorbing spaces by melding architectural effects with abstracted imagery. On view in this exhibition are two series of paintings made in 2012. The Untitled Space series draws from Haney’s use of imagery found in vintage interior design and gardening books. In her series Space Jam, Haney works more from impulsive reactionary painting techniques, creating abstract cosmic scenes inspired by science fiction books and films. Haney’s oeuvre contains morphing geometric images that attempt to jump off their panels and continue outward through space.
One of Haney’s major influences is the artist Kurt Schwitters. Schwitters, an artist and poet of the German avant-garde, was active in the art world from 1918 through his death in 1948. An influential work for Haney by Schwitters is the Merzbau, an installation that he recreated three separate times throughout his life. This work, built within his apartment, is a sculptural environment of angled surfaces aggressively protruding into a predominately white room. Schwitters incorporated rooms of his living space into the structure with the ceilings and walls covered with jutting three-dimensional shapes. A variety of objects filled the installation’s countless nooks and grottos, many referencing Dadaist sculptures. Schwitters considered the Merzbau an uncompleted work that, by its very nature, would continue to grow and change. Haney references Schwitters’ built environments in both of her series with her jutting geometric shapes and multiple perspectives. Also acknowledged is a shared interest in the relationship between painting and collage. Haney’s architectural language and her interest in the study of space respond to Schwitters’ ideas about art and architecture always remaining in a state of flux.
In Haney’s Untitled Space series on birch wood, she constructs a spatial fantasy from two-dimensional reality. Haney selects interiors containing strong architectural components: the beams from a ceiling, cabinetry from a kitchen, or sliding glass doors that open onto a porch. She collages these elements onto the painting and extends lines outward from them, creating new spatial situations. Haney’s contemporary vibrant palette containing teals, pinks, and purples adds to the three-dimensional effect of the lines and shapes seeming to extend off the panel and jump toward the viewer. Haney draws inspiration for these paintings from the architectural artist Gordon Matta-Clark. In the 1960s and 70s, Matta-Clark used a chainsaw to cut through buildings and expose the interiors. With documentation of these site-specific building “cuts,” he created overlapping photo collages. Much of his work studied the elements of space and light. In his photo collages, he used images taken from various angles of his building cuts and overlaid them to create an entirely new space. Haney makes her paintings in a technique similar to Matta-Clark’s collages. She overlaps spaces and imagery, creating new, almost futuristic spaces. In Untitled Space #4 and Untitled Space #5, Haney enhances the images with a detailed span of grids referencing building facades, skyscrapers, and cityscapes. These works, along with the other paintings on birch panels, are strong examples of paintings that incorporate existing interior architecture with Haney’s interest in exterior modernist architecture.
In Haney’s Space Jam series, her interest is exploiting architecture’s precision by crafting and grounding a rational sense of space amidst an ungrounded astral phenomenon. Haney’s thought process is deeply influenced by art history, as well as science fiction books and films. Known for their significant work in the field, authors such as William Gibson, Philip K. Dick and Frank Herbert influence Haney’s futuristic landscapes. Gibson coined the term cyberspace in his short story “Burning Chrome” published in 1982, years before the ubiquity of the Internet. Dick is best known for his novel Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep, which the film Bladerunner was based on, and Herbert is the author of Dune, widely considered one of the most important science fiction texts of all time. Haney uses impulsive, reactionary painting techniques to shape her celestial works. Combining stencils of transparent to opaque shapes while editing the works by additive and subtractive methods such as sanding, scraping, and splattering—Haney augments the formalized swell from where she starts. She infuses these eruptive works with color, force and geometry, which seem to indicate the formation or collapse of new planets or stars.
New Works: Leah Haney is an exhibition of extremely contemporary works. Haney pushes the boundaries of painting, reaching from the past into the present, and concluding with a combination of elements. Her futuristic landscapes offer the viewer a new and exciting way of approaching both painting and architecture.
Curated by Rachel Adams, Associate Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs