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Louisa Van Leer


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My art always starts with the city. Whether it is the suburban tract homes lapping at the edge of the mountains, urban campers parked under overpasses, billboards that hover above the city. The city is a constantly changing network of relationships; it is erased, redrawn, built over and reconstituted, each time revealing new things about its inhabitants. The city acts as a projection screen for human motivations and desires. With my current body of work titled "30 feet above the Ground" I explore the relationship of billboards and vision in the city. Billboard placement responds to the perspectival connection between the observer and the city grid, creating two distinct, yet intertwined spatial systems, one on the ground plane and one hovering above. In the artwork I join the observer and billboard with perspectival cones of vision to reveal both the intentionality of the billboard advertiser and the architecture of vision.

The reason my art practice starts with the city is due in large part with my background in architecture. Architecture plays a major role in both the way I look at the world and with my art methodology. Often when I start an idea for an artwork I employ similar strategies that I would for a design project. I make conceptual models, do mapping exercises of the city, create detailed photo documentation. From that point, my art practice heads off in a different direction. Instead of using architecture tools to solve problems, I use them to provoke questions. Instead of trying to create order, my eye searches out moments of discontinuity in the urban landscape that suggest deeper fault lines in the order of things.

With my art practice I'm interested in developing ways to work both in the gallery and in the public realm. As my art references the city it offers an opportunity to directly engage with the subject of my work and allows the site and conditions to help dictate the form that the art takes. By placing yourself and your artwork within this context it forces you to come to terms with space not in the abstract sense but in the concrete and everyday sense. While with a gallery or museum the negotiation of space certainly exists, it is more codified. Gallery's and museums are places you go to experience a work of art and with that expectation comes a shift in how a work is perceived before you even see it. Many of the terms for apprehending a work of art are set in place by the artworks context whether that context is a gallery or a street corner. The big difference is that a work of art on a street corner might not have a framing device that inscribes it as "art" whereas with the gallery and museum the frame is implicit. I am interested, not in rejecting one or the other as viable spaces to work but to explore the terrain opened up by their differences.