The Art of Infrastructure
January 9-30, 2021
Opening Saturday, January 9, 11am-4pm
*To attend, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org*
Zoom Artist Talk TBA
This show is on-view alongside The Old Garden mixed media installation.
(Painting) Sarah Arnold, Kathryn McDaniel Babcock, Helen Werner Cox, Elizabeth Talbot
(Photography) Nick Santa Ana, Arsenio Trinidad
During the past three years, four painters were granted access to the construction site of the New Desmond Bridge in Long Beach Harbor. They have since been documenting the dynamic construction of the bridge on location in oil, watercolor, charcoal, ink, and pencil.
Artist Helen Cox explored her own fascination with the port, and with the surreal contradictions between playfulness and power present there. Drawings done on location focus on the fleeting aspects of construction, such as scaffolding and variations in light. In Cox’s paintings, shipping containers resemble brightly colored stacks of building blocks, while sweeping, geometric lines detail the structure of cranes, and the evolution of the bridge itself slowly coming into existence. Cox’s paintings record the temporary history of the building process, rather than the finished product.
Sarah Arnold’s paintings are a departure from her usual technique and subject matter. Her recent work has depicted buildings in residential neighborhoods, surrounded by trees and greenery. Painting the more industrial subject matter of this project required a simplification of not only palette and color schemes, but also in medium and process. The massive and complex space demanded condensing the structures into paintings and drawings during the limited time that light allowed.
Kathryn Babcock’s highly textural paintings capture the build as a series of dramatically-lit surfaces. Bold swaths of background color evoke the changing and temperamental climate of a harbor, with sunsets, haze, and cloud cover all coming across with seemingly effortless confidence. The simple yet assertive lines in Babcock’s paintings offer the dreamlike snapshot of a memory.
Elizabeth Talbot’s impressionistic paintings are soft and loose, with an undeniable solidity. In a few, determined brushstrokes, Talbot chooses for her subject matter not the bridge, but objects that have been necessitated or displaced by its construction, against a background of sky and sea that seems to occupy the same depth, resulting in works that are both a record of a moment in time, as well as a timeless composition of line and color.
With special permission from the Shimmick Construction Company, the artists have accumulated a significant collection of small to mid-sized paintings and drawings, as well as larger abstract architectural interpretations. A large 6 x 8 foot painting focuses on the workers, and is an intentional reference to the work of Diego Rivera and the Works Progress Administration murals completed in the 1930’s. The exhibition also includes a tunnel book—a three-dimensional re-creation of the harbor that reminiscent of theatrical stage sets. Tunnel books date back to the 1700’s and were made to commemorate special occasions.
The collection also includes photographs taken by Paul Trinidad and Nicholas J. Santa Anna Jr., two members of the bridge’s construction crew. The photos, taken from the 500-foot top of the main post, looking down through the clouds at the bridges below, or hanging from the scaffolding in mid-air, help to present the distinct viewpoint of the workers who helped make the bridge a reality. Together, the paintings and the photographs demonstrate the power of form meeting function.