Monarchs being put on “burn notice”

A dark wind blows through Valley College’s Art Gallery—Mara Lonner’s “Burnouts” exhibition is on view until April 28.

By Ricardo Varela, Editor-in-chief

Large, semi-diaphanous black velvet art pieces hang like dead air, juxtaposed with smaller geometrically-abstract pieces in Mara Lonner’s dual “Burnouts” and “Consequential Abstractions Series” exhibit featured at Valley College’s Art Gallery.

The show is a love letter to contrast: the lush, tactile quality of velvet versus the smooth walls it hangs from; the empty feeling of staring into black fabric versus the clinical banality of white gallery walls; the inversion of the traditional use of negative space from black to white. All of this is a vehicle for the artist’s storytelling, documenting loss, destruction and a general anxiety with modern life.

Lonner used the devoré technique to achieve this aesthetic. A base drawing is made onto mixed-fabric material, followed by the application of a sodium hydrogen sulphate gel, which dissolves the cellulose-based fibers and leaves the silk-based fibers intact. This creates translucent patches in the fabric through which light reveals the image itself.

Some of the works are physically imposing—the largest piece, “Destruction Burnout (Landscape 01 Joplin)” measures 18 feet, 2 inches wide and 7 feet, 8 inches high. It depicts the wreckage left by a 2011 tornado that ripped through Joplin, Missouri, killing 158. This piece leaves the viewer feeling both the heft of the human and economic loss, while its scope makes the viewer feel small.

Conversely, Lonner’s “Consequential Abstracts Series” features smaller works that act as whispers between their larger brethren. The leftover material from “Burnouts” was used to create the graphite-on-paper works, with “Burnouts” fibers adhered over the sketches. The fibers glisten in the gallery’s light, giving an otherwise two-dimensional piece added depth. They serve to continue the motif of line, which looms behind many of the “Burnouts” works, and ties both series together.

“When making the velvet drawings, a large amount of fugitive fibers are released and displaced throughout the studio,” Lonner said. “The ‘Consequential Abstraction Series’ captures a portion of these process remnants on prepared paper mounted on panels. These panels are covered with objects found in and around the space where I am working. When the velvet drawing is completed, the objects are removed from the panels, and the fibers that remain are fixed to the surface. Material that could be lost is repurposed into another work as a consequence of the capture.”

Artist Mara Lonner lives and works in Los Angeles. She earned both her Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts Degrees from the California Institute of the Arts, and creates work both from self-generated ideas and public commissions. Lonner is currently completing work on a glass pavilion for Metro’s Crenshaw/MLK station.

“Burnouts” and “Consequential Abstractions Series” are on display until April 28. Valley’s Art Gallery hours of operation are Monday through Thursday from 1-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. The gallery will be closed during Cesar Chavez Day and spring break. For more information, visit the Art Gallery’s web site or call 818-778-5536.

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