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Vanessa McConnell: Lithosphere

This is a color photograph of a room in the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. The walls of the room are white-colored and lined with abstract paintings by Vanessa McConnell.

installation view

The Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery presents Lithosphere, a solo exhibition by Vanessa McConnell featuring a selection of paintings, works on paper and related objects. Taking its title from a geological term describing the Earth’s uppermost layer, the exhibition focuses on the layered power of expression and materiality inherent in McConnell’s artistic practice. The most widely known feature of the Earth’s lithosphere are the tectonic plates – revered for their ability to alter the surface of the planet. Similarly, McConnell’s expertise lies in creating two-dimensional works where the surface expresses her ability to manipulate color and form into seemingly new, three-dimensional forms. 

 

McConnell’s paintings are characterized by their thick impasto surfaces, intense colors and decisive brushstrokes. The artist experiments with a range of tones and techniques, including masking, acrylics and watercolors and, sometimes, found objects, often working on a single painting for months at a time. During her labor-intensive process, McConnell adds multiple layers of acrylic paint to develop densely textured and pigmented compositions. The bold aesthetic of McConnell’s work is also, in part, determined by the physical limits of her medium, as the artist continues to use her brushes until they are too heavy with paint to be manipulated. The dramatic, expressive nature of her mark-making, which sometimes leads to tears and rips in the paper, evinces the artist’s powerful compulsion to paint.

 

One particularly distinctive aspect of McConnell’s work has emerged as a result of her dynamic painting method, whereby thick drips of paint accumulate at the base of her paintings. Occasionally, due to their own weight, these ridges break off to form striking sculptural objects in their own right. Lithosphere features a selection of these objects as well as a number of other ephemera generated by the artist’s unique process. The artist herself is known for her paint-covered clothes and shoes indicative of an immersive process. This includes a series of paintbrushes and vessels from McConnell’s studio that have acquired a lacquered appearance and become covered in several coats of acrylic paint through being in close proximity to the artist as she works.

 

Through paintings, paint-covered curiosities and supportive tools, Vanessa McConnell: Lithosphere offers an intimate look beyond the painted surfaces and into the artist’s process and life.

This is a color photograph of an apron owned by Vanessa McConnell. The apron is made of a dark-colored fabric, and it is covered in brightly colored paint splatters and strokes. The paint colors include pink, red, yellow, green, orange, blue, and white.

Untitled, paint on apron, 36 x 28 inches

"Untitled", acrylic, string, steel, plastic, on canvas, 24 x 18 inches, 2017. courtesy of the artist and ECF Art Centers.
This is a color photograph of a sculptural object by Vanessa McConnell. The object appears to be a paint lacquered shelf, with various cool-toned colors such as blue, magenta, purple, green and white. The paint layers are clumped at the bottom of the shelf to resemble a slight triangular shape.

Left to right, top to bottom:

 

Untitled and detail, acrylic, string, steel and plastic

on canvas, 24 x 18 inches, 2017

Untitled, molded acrylic, 23 x 6 x 2.5 inches

"Untitled", acrylic, mixed media, on wood panel, 28 x 18.5 x 1 inches, year unknown. courtesy of the artist and ECF Art Centers.

Untitled, acrylic, mixed media, on wood panel, 28 x 18.5 x 1 inches

This is a color photograph of an abstract painting by Vanessa McConnell. The painting features thick layers of paint in various colors, such as blue, orange, white, yellow, and black. At the bottom of the canvas, there is a ridge of dried paint.
This is a color photograph of a detail of an abstract painting by Vanessa McConnell. The painting features thick layers of paint in various colors, such as blue, orange, white, yellow, and black.
This is a color photograph of a detail of an abstract painting by Vanessa McConnell. The image is a close-up of the bottom edge of the painting's canvas. It features thick layers of paint in various colors, such as blue, orange, and white. At the bottom of the canvas, there is a ridge of dried paint.

Untitled, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18.5 x 2.5 inches

This is a color photograph of a corner of a wall in the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. The wall on the left features an abstract painting by Vanessa McConnell. The painting is on a circular canvas and has thick layers of pink and purple colored paints. Extending from the bottom of the painting is a thick ridge of paint. The wall on the right features another abstract painting by Vanessa McConnell. This painting is on the backside of a rectangular canvas and has thick layers of paint of various colors, such as purple, pink, and green. There is a hole in the center of the canvas.

installation view

This is a color photograph of an abstract painting by Vanessa McConnell. The painting is on a circular canvas and has thick layers of pink and purple colored paints. The texture of the painting is smooth, and many small bumps are distributed throughout the surface of the painting. Extending from the bottom of the painting is a thick ridge of paint.
This is a color photograph of a detail of an abstract painting by Vanessa McConnell. The image features a portion of the painting, which has thick layers of mostly pink and purple colored paints. Other colors, such white, green, and yellow, are also visible. The surface of the painting has many small smooth bumps distributed throughout the surface of the painting. Some layers of the paint seem cracked.

Untitled, acrylic, mixed media, on wood panel, 25 x 20 inches

This is a color photograph of an abstract painting by Vanessa McConnell. This painting is on the backside of a rectangular canvas and has thick layers of paint of various colors, such as purple, pink, and green. There is a hole in the center of the canvas.

Untitled, acrylic on found wood frame, 17 x 13.75 x 2 inches

This is a color photograph of an abstract painting by Vanessa McConnell. The painting features layers of different colors, such as yellow, red, and blue, and most of the paint strokes go in a vertical direction.

Untitled, acrylic on paper, 10.5 x 15 inches

This is a color photograph of an abstract painting by Vanessa McConnell. The painting features layers of different colors of paint, such as black, magenta, white, and blue, and the paint strokes go in many different directions.

Untitled, acrylic on paper, 29.5 x 22 inches

This is a color photograph of part of an installation of objects by Vanessa McConnell in the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. The wall is painted sky blue and has wooden shelves that hold ephemera from McConnell's studio. The ephemera include paintbrushes and vessels that are covered in thick, dried paint. Below the shelves is a large piece of fabric splattered with dry paint.

installation view

installation view

This is a color photograph of a room in the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. The walls of the room are white-colored and lined with several abstract paintings by Vanessa McConnell.

installation view

This is a color photograph of a detail of an abstract painting done on burlap by Vanessa McConnell. This painting features thick layers of paint of various colors, such as black, blue, and white. The texture of the burlap as well as some unpainted sections of burlap are visible.

Untitled (detail), acrylic on burlap, 24 x 19 inches

Vanessa McConnell (b. 1960, Houston, TX, lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) began her practice at the Exceptional Children’s Foundation (ECF) Art Centers in 1983 at the MLK studio in South Los Angeles, and now works from the ECF Art Center Westside studio located in Inglewood California. The ECF Art Center Westside is one of ECF’s five progressive art studios supporting adult artists with developmental disabilities.

 

Since 1968, the ECF Art Centers have provided adults with developmental disabilities a place to explore their creativity and freedom of expression. At ECF’s five art studios located across Los Angeles County, artists with developmental disabilities are encouraged to communicate their personal and creative vision. Talented instructors provide artists with guidance in a variety of media, including painting, drawing, printmaking, digital art, and ceramics. ECF’s approach to mentorship and professional development in the arts has been the catalyst for hundreds of artists to achieve their personal and professional goals.

 

ECF Art Centers partner with established local and national galleries, museums and other community organizations to connect artists to the greater art community. Juried art shows and local exhibits provide community exposure for artists and their work. We also invite outside artists to participate within the Art Center studios in a Collaborative Artist In Residency Program to foster a creative setting and collaborative environment. ECF’s Downtown Art Center Gallery (DAC Gallery) also creates opportunities for ECF artists to interact with members of the broader art community.

 

Images courtesy of the artist and ECF Art Centers. Photos by the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery unless otherwise noted.

 

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