ArtBitzLA caught up with San Francisco-based artist Nellie King Solomon for an #outofLA feature about her new work. These works mark a departure from a decade of making purely abstract paintings to explore the relationship between art making, transcendent experience, and everyday physical objects in our shifted digital psyche. Nellie continues to create her large-scale works on mylar, a salute to her time in architecture school at Cooper Union, but her end results are radically different.
In “The Love Of Driving,” Nellie examines the relationship people have with their commute. What is so commonly loathed actually seems to be a moment poised with possibility for Nellie; driving offers a space between spaces where she can be alone with her thoughts. It’s a place providing opportunity, but of course it can be squandered. It’s what people chose to do with that liminal space that really matters. Where The 405 meets the 10 is the world’s largest intersection, and therefore the world’s largest sculpture. The poignant merging of people and machines give highways the potential to provide an almost religious experience; time and space collide to form meaning for those willing to think about it. For Nellie, they become charged with so much potential that, despite the aversion many people have to them, she cannot help but feel some inexplicable attachment, or sense of nostalgia.
“I want to juxtapose the sublime abstractions, the lilt and drifts of paint and form, the AbEx, Action Painting, and Color Field painting arenas that I am known for with our competing physical and digital realities.”
Other new paintings reflect the digitally augmented reality that many of us experience today. That continuous digital conversation we are all now engaged with drives our experiences and has reshaped the visual psyche of people all around the world. The same way previous generations turned to religion, patriotism or company culture, the present generation has turned to technology to seek answers for life’s big questions. The tendency, however, is like jumping down the rabbit hole; each revelation and new association leads to more questions and Nellie is finding herself enjoying this novel perspective to her artistic practice.
“Departure,” for instance, merges spirituality and reality where the abstract ring hits the runway. The ring at the center of the painting no longer exists in pure abstract space, even though that space has been there all along. One underlying theme motivating Nellie’s new work is, as she says, “I paint what I know is there, but cannot see.” These paintings are really all about potential, whether it comes from traveling to a far away place or merely that mundane daily commute. As with driving, for Nellie the traveler’s experience offers a great sense of possibility. The traveler is vulnerable and unsure of the immediate future, which makes them more aware and open to transcendent experience. “Departure” seems to asks, “Who are you?” as if the spiritual blob collides with the viewer at the exact moment when everyone is asked to turn off their cellphone and prepare for takeoff.
Collaborating with industrial designer, Erik Walker, Nellie has also created a series of visually seductive painting objects in her 1’x 1’ LED Melts. The pieces, created by freezing and then melting cubes of paint on LED light boxes, present an unlikely relationship between organic forms and digital age technology. The paint seeps out from the cubes in shapes resembling oil spills, or maybe melted popsicles. The cubes of paint, rich in color and imperfect in shape, are almost reminiscent of the human body. Juxtaposed against the stark, cool LED screens they somehow manage to feel all the more carnal. The statement Nellie makes about man versus machine, paint versus technology is ambiguous, we can’t tell which medium wins with these works. But we can stand back and enjoy the formal beauty of the painting/sculpture/technology Nellie has integrated. Evoking conflicting emotions, which amplify and create a visual presence that vibrates between the known and unknown, secure and insecure, these little pieces demonstrate that Nellie is in full command of the new direction of her new work and we look forward to seeing where else she goes.