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On The Verge, Laband Art Gallery, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA


September 17 – December 10, 2022

The Laband Art Gallery is delighted to feature Luciana Abait in a survey show that offers the first opportunity to experience the artist’s striking work across media in painting, sculpture, photography, video installation and augmented reality. Comprising 20 pieces from 2017 to the present, the exhibition Luciana Abait: On the Verge conjures imaginary worlds that portend global climate catastrophe and
show signs of humankind’s intrusion on nature. Born in 1971 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Abait immigrated to the United States in 1997. The artist draws from her own personal feelings of displacement and vulnerability to urge viewers to consider how global warming is wreaking havoc, especially on the lives of climate migrants. For Abait, a piece like The Maps That Failed Us (2018-22)—a monumental sculptural installation of the maps of the world shown at random and out of context—makes visible our social, physical, and above all, planetary interdependence. The artist implores us to consider our collective geographic proximity in relation to our shared universal fate and sense of survival. Abait’s imaginings of our contemporary climate crisis are simultaneously overwhelming and invitational. Her palette often skews neon and is deliberately unnatural, eliciting an unsettling, disorienting effect. But, at the same time, she renders her pictures with intentionally beautiful surfaces and colors to remind us of what is at stake in our fragile environment. Her landscapes of icebergs are figuratively pushing at the edge of planetary existence. It’s as if the artist is urging us to step into these forsaken scenes and do something good. Abait revels in the presentation of incongruities in her vivid terrains—in color, size, and scale—to convey her ideas. One of her most recent works speaks to the dire conditions and sense of deprivation we face under unprecedented duress with regard to
water. Agua (2021) is a site-specific digital projection of a cascading waterfall that has been shown previously for only a few hours at outdoor festivals. Now, it is installed for the first time inside the gallery as a 20-foot-tall voluminous virtual artifact of nature, a conspicuous site for sore eyes in drought weary Los Angeles. In contrast with the other works in this exhibition, the six subtly ominous images making up the series On the Verge (2022) have not been manipulated or altered by the artist. Repeating the same visual language that is the hallmark of all of her imagery, Abait captures this country’s second largest reservoir, Lake Powell, in its current state of decline as it verges on reaching “dead pool” levels at which point water would no longer pass downstream to generate power. Artists such as Abait play a crucial dimension in how they are able to lead us to a promising future. Can art solve our climate crisis?
It can’t. Or rather, it can’t alone. To borrow from the preeminent artistic director of the Serpentine Gallery in London, Hans Ulrich Obrist, from a recent interview related to his climate-themed exhibition Back to Earth, “We could never say that art can solve this very massive problem. But I think no field can solve this on its own. Art can be a wake-up call.”


Karen Rapp
Laband Art Gallery Director & Curator

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