Review of Patte's recent exhibition at Platform here.
Over the years, Patte Loper’s work has evolved tremendously, from picturing animals in domestic settings to then placing them in paintings of movie “sets” and then on to graphite drawings inspired by Antarctic explorers, and more recently creating sculptures you create to make observational paintings? In the early 2000’s she did a series of paintings featuring wildlife inhabiting domestic settings, but began to feel limited by the images she was using for sources, mostly from industry, design, and art periodicals from the 1960’s and 70’s. The Antarctica series really let her break out and imagine, or “design,” hypothetical architecture in pieces like Observation Deck for Bottomless Pit (see series A Peculiar Brightness in the Sky below). Working with the idea of architecture responding specifically to a place and also having an emotional resonance—for example, Bottomless Pit could be read in many ways—what does it mean to have a bottomless pit in the middle of a living room, which in turn is in the middle of a mountain? As fun as those mediations were, eventually, working only two-dimensionally wasn’t enough and the artist started to build her own objects to paint from. Now, the objects have taken over and become installations and environments, but the threads of painting, architecture, and emotional resonance remain.
Patte Loper is a painter who experiments with sculpture and video. She was born in Colorado and grew up in Tallahassee, FL, a subtropical college town where she first developed an appreciation for the ways nature and culture can overlap. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY, and Boston, MA, where she is on the faculty of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. She has shown her work in numerous solo and group exhibitions internationally, including the Drawing Center, New York, NY; The Licini Museum, Ascoli Piceno Italy; LMCC’s Art Center on Governor’s Island, NY; the Palaentological Museum, Cortina, Italy; The Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, San Antonio, TX; the Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA; the Westbeth Gallery, New York, NY; the ISE Foundation, New York, NY; and the Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle, WA. Her work has been reviewed in Flash Art (Italian edition), Artnet, Time Out Chicago, and the Boston Globe, and is in the collections of the Rene di Rosa Foundation, the Microsoft Corporation, and the Hirshhorn Museum. She participated in residency fellowships at the Millay Colony, Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Center’s Swing Space, and participated in the Drawing Center’s Open Sessions program. She is a member artist of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Studio Program.
from LET OUR BEAUTY EASE YOUR GRIEF series
DETROIT 1969: STEAM 2006, graphite paper, 14 x 11 inches, $1,500 framed
DETROIT 1969: CONCRETE PILINGS 2 2006, graphite paper, 14 x 11 inches, $1,500 framed
from A PECULIAR BRIGHTNESS IN THE SKY series
IMPROVISED SHELTER SERIES (HUT #1) 2008, graphite and acrylic on paper, 15 x 11 inches, $1,500 framed
IMPROVISED SHELTER SERIES (HUT #2) 2008, graphite and acrylic on paper, 15 x 11 inches, $1,500 framed
IMPROVISED SHELTER SERIES (HUT #3) 2008, graphite and acrylic on paper, 15 x 11 inches, $1,500 framed
IMPROVISED SHELTER SERIES (HUT #4) 2008, graphite and acrylic on paper, 15 x 11 inches, $1,500 framed
OBSERVATION DECK FOR A BOTTOMLESS PIT 2008, graphite and acrylic on paper, 60 x 52 inches,
60 x 104 inches overall, diptych, $14,000
Drawing from John Ruskin’s notions of the "Pathetic Fallacy" in which the outward manifestation of the landscape mirrors inner emotional states, this body of work employs Antarctica—hostile, empty, beautiful—as a fictional site of historical, scientific and emotional speculation. The images are inspired by accounts of early 20th century explorers and their attempts to map uncharted lands with woefully inadequate knowledge and equipment in order to fulfill a sense of manifest destiny—all the while maintaining impeccable manners and civility in the face of hopeless brutality.
Certain works in the show draw upon images of structures built by early Antarctic explorers in dire circumstances and with limited means. For example, Improvised Shelter (Hut 2) is based on the structure that Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton's expedition crew built from a salvaged lifeboat after they were stranded on Elephant Island (1915). Other visual references for works are drawn from 1950’s bomb shelter plans, ships caught and destroyed in the pack ice, as well as viable existing structures currently in use at the South Pole.
The drawings focus on these structures in their relationship to the geological and atmospheric phenomena found on the Antarctic continent—vast ice fields, bottomless chasms, and Aurora Polaris. While leading an early scientific expedition, explorer Sir Douglas Mawson, was moved to write: “Powerless, one was in the spell of an all-enfolding wonder…we had come to probe its mystery, we had hoped to reduce it in terms of science, but there was always the ‘indefinable’ which held aloof, yet riveted out souls.”
The series title, A Peculiar Brightness in the Sky is a phrase lifted from Douglas Mawson’s account of his 1912-1913 Antarctic expedition. He uses the phrase to describe what is commonly known in the polar regions as “Ice Blink," the glare of the ice reflected on the undersides of clouds.
from HOW TO STAY ALIVE IN THE WOODS series
IT IS DIFFICULT TO TEACH BONES 2013, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches
WELCOME, GHOSTS 2013, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches
I WANT TO BELIEVE IN EVERYTHING THAT YOU BELIEVE 2013, oil on canvas, 36 x 48 inches
Long been interested in the interface between the natural and the constructed world, Patte begins this series of paintings by first creating models made from pieced-together scraps of found materials such as discarded cardboard, cloth, sticks, string and putty. She then makes observational paintings using the models as subjects for portraits. Painting the image of the model frontally, surrounded by a landscape of woods, the observed objects are presented as though for examination. She intentionally refers to classical portraiture or botanical studies done by naturalists before the use of photography, a time when painting was used to document, to classify, and to communicate ideas and images that would otherwise remain unknown. Patte seeks to utilize sensory experience such as the movement of the paint, the strangeness of the objects, and the familiarity of the woods as a means to explore flexible and idiosyncratic forms by plumbing hidden weights, gravitational pulls and unexpected connections within the subject matter.