Peter Blum Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by Luisa Rabbia entitled, From Mitosis to Rainbow at 176 Grand Street, New York. This is the artist’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery and is on view from November 7, 2020 - January 9, 2021.
Luisa Rabbia blends the distinctions made between the human and the natural, expressing solidarity with the cosmos through the organic, bodily landscapes of her expansive paintings. The scale of Rabbia’s paintings suits the themes she explores, oftentimes depicting overlapping abstracted figures joining and breaking apart, seemingly overcoming their physicality. In the exhibition she alludes to interconnected natural processes such as mitosis, forming a thread between microcosms and macrocosms and interweaving them in a nebulous primordial state. Continually in flux and transforming like a rainbow, her forms created in expressive hues also evoke spiritual transitions. Upon closer viewing and bringing this substantial work to a more intimate level, her physical and intuitive process becomes visible with its rhythmically scraped paint, the stratification of pencil marks, and imprints of fingertips. Rabbia alludes to the minute traces that each person leaves over the course of a lifetime, yet simultaneously asserts an expansive and interconnected vision of a wider universe.
Luisa Rabbia (b. 1970, Turin, Italy) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She received her MFA from the Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti in Turin, Italy. Solo museum exhibitions include: Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy; Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA; Fundación PROA, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice, Italy; Fondazione Merz, Turin, Italy. Group exhibitions include: Magazzino Italian Art Foundation, Cold Spring, NY; Manifesta 12, Palazzo Drago, Palermo, Italy; Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy; Biennale del Disegno, Museo della Citta, Rimini, Italy; Lismore Castle, Waterford, Ireland; Shirley Fiterman Art Center, New York, NY; Maison Particulière, Brussels, Belgium; Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; Museo del Novecento, Milan, Italy; MAXXI Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI secolo, Rome, Italy; Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, China.
"My work starts with a countless number of fingerprints on canvas, my approach is physical and intuitive. Whether I intertwine pencil lines or I engrave wet paint, tiny marks accumulate over a large surface referencing both time and the responsibility that comes with every single action."
— Luisa Rabbia
"I work intuitively and try to not rationalize the meaning behind a work until it is finished because in my experience there is something mysterious about how images find their way into this world. Creativity, for me, is a peculiar matter that can easily be spoiled with excessive control and reason, so I try to let the work develop without looking at the image 'directly,' but rather 'obliquely.' Agnes Martin often spoke about listening to 'voices' that told her what to do while she was painting. In my experience these voices exist, different for every artist, obviously, and I try to find mine and listen to them.
I consider a work successful if I discover unexpected associations after its completion. If I look at the painting Nameless, however, I clearly remember my feelings when I first approached the blank canvas, one afternoon after a heartbreaking phone call with my elderly mother. When I understood that she might soon leave me, I felt as if I were approaching a second birth, a more conscious one but, nevertheless, a moment in which perhaps I'll re-experience the separation that I already suffered through when I was first born. It’s in occurrences like this that we are reminded that we are on our own, in a most honest and existential way."
— Luisa Rabbia on Nameless
“When you still had your mother you often thought of the days when you would have her no longer. Now you will often think of days past when you had her. When you are used to this horrible thing that they will forever be cast into the past, then you will gently feel her revive, returning to take her place, her entire place, beside you. At the present time, this is not yet possible. Let yourself be inert, wait till the incomprehensible power … that has broken you restores you a little, I say a little, for henceforth you will always keep something broken about you. Tell yourself this, too, for it is a kind of pleasure to know that you will never love less, that you will never be consoled, that you will constantly remember more and more.”
— Letter from Marcel Proust to Georges de Lauris, 1907
"I see my work as a long journey toward myself and others, a journey that unfolds through time and within which there is a sort of visual vocabulary that finds its own narrative from one work to the other. Mitos is among the first works I made after Death (2017) which was shown during my last exhibition at Peter Blum in 2018. The title Mitos comes from 'mitosis,' a type of cell division that results in two daughter cells, each having the same number and kind of chromosomes as the parent nucleus, and a process without which there would be no life. Also, Mitos, in Greek means 'thread' and is etymologically related to myth. This painting, like a thread, means to reflect on the connection between one life and the ones before and after.
I imagine our bodies immersed in invisible traces left by humanity over the course of time, small particles that we breathe in and out and that inevitably determine a present never disconnected from past and future. The fingerprints that cover the surface of Mitos would not be as visible if I hadn’t rubbed pencil over them. I see the fingerprints as fossils, traces that are there, just waiting to be highlighted."
— Luisa Rabbia on Mitos
"Rabbia’s art is one of subtlety and resonance, her subjects as fleeting as they are timeless. If her raw materials appear to be paint and color, don’t be fooled: they are actually the enduring, eternal mysteries that are the companions of any human soul."
— Edward M. Gomez, Luisa Rabbia’s Tiny Marks and Big Mysteries, Hyperallergic, 2018
"I approached the canvas to paint what became Ecstasy after a long time spent observing and sketching Picasso’s Embrace (1903) and Munch’s The Kiss (1895). What struck me about both of these works, similar in many ways, was certainly how the two bodies merged into one. They look solid, sculptural, rooted, so isolated and detached from the surrounding that their physicality seems to be represented especially to contain and protect what matters most, their inner feelings. For my painting I wanted the emotional experience of the act of love to be the subject of the painting, and for it be seen from the inside. I wanted to represent two lovers in a state of suspension, elevated and taken away in a moment of ecstasy. Looking at Ecstasy, afterward, I actually saw a figure that left behind its own body to enter, perhaps, into another dimension. In this case, the outline of the figure evokes one body that splits into two parts, in a process of separation from its own physicality, which is also a kind of ecstasy. I realized this piece by scratching away paint while it was still wet with a sharp pencil, a process that erased the outlines of the bodies, leaving only traces of what they originally were."
— Luisa Rabbia on Ecstasy
"Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye... it also includes the inner pictures of the soul."
— Edward Munch
"While working on this painting and after completing it, I knew that Whole was about a spiritual place that each one of us might feel within, a place from which everything comes and ends. But I was very surprised today, more than one year after finishing this piece, to find this image below. I was raised Catholic in Italy, but I walked away from the Church during my adolescence. Throughout those years of belief, though, I took it very seriously, especially considering my age, because I had discovered spirituality. I describe spirituality now as a feeling of wordless expansiveness, it is a place I am sometimes able to go to while working, and from there I try to look out and reach the other. Religious doctrines are particular, but spiritual experiences are for everyone."
— Luisa Rabbia on Whole
"Her work serves as a form of meeting ground – a hotbed for various influences and storylines. Rabbia has created a place where memories prevail and new experiences infiltrate. It is a platform on which a collective spirit can unfold."
— Stephanie Buhmann, Luisa Rabbia: Coming and Going, Brooklyn Rail, 2012
"The interconnection between my life and the lives of others, from the micro to the macro, from present actions to past and future, are reflections that keep me aware of how each one of us counts and can make a diﬀerence. Chorus speaks of the importance of every single voice, each one with its own experience, each one with its own color, each one with its own identity. The vessel at the center of the painting evokes a faraway place of origin, where the link from one generation to the next began."
— Luisa Rabbia on Chorus
All human beings are members of one frame,
Since all, at first, from the same essence came.
When time aﬄicts a limb with pain
The other limbs at rest cannot remain. If thou feel not for other’s misery
A human being is no name for thee
— Saadi of Shiraz, from Gulistan, 1258
“I am particularly interested in themes that relate to everyone, that are all-inclusive and belong to human history. Among them are the beginning and ending of life, the connection between lives, and the connection between past, present, and future.”
— Luisa Rabbia
“In Rabbia’s work...what is manifested is a camouflaged figuration, a network of traces that simultaneously suggest geographic maps, X-rays, cells, shrubs, venous webs, cartography, sky maps. Her canvases oﬀer spectators an opportunity for imaginative reading, where one can perceive wounds and karstic openings, rivers and ravines, visions ambiguously reminiscent of both geographical and medical atlases...This sort of ‘universal map of existence’ removes man from the center of the universe, instead inserting it into a complex system where everything exists in relation to other things but without exercising domain or hierarchy thereon."
— Silvia Bottani, excerpt from Drawing the Painting, Doppiozero-International, 2017
“You say you can’t see the kingdom of the good and the true on earth. I didn’t see it either; and it can’t be seen if you look at our life as the end of everything. On earth, I mean this earth . . . there is no truth — everything is falsehood and evil; but in the universe, in the whole universe, there is the kingdom of the true, and we are now children of the earth, but eternally — children of the whole universe. Don’t I feel in my soul that I make up a part of that huge, harmonious whole? Don’t I feel that, among the countless number of beings in which the divinity — the higher power — whatever you like —is manifest, I make up one link, one step from lower beings to higher? If I see, see clearly, this ladder that leads from plant to man, then why should I suppose that this ladder, the lower end of which I do not see, is lost in the plants? Why should I suppose that this ladder stops with me and does not lead further and further to higher beings? I feel not only that I cannot disappear, as nothing disappears in the world, but that I will always be and have always been. I feel that, besides me, above me, spirits live, and that in this world there is truth."
— Leo Tolstoy, excerpt from War and Peace, 1867
“Rabbia sees in history a multiplicity of singular existences; for her, the past is made of a succession of presents.”
— Pieranna Cavalchini, excerpt from the catalogue Luisa Rabbia: Travels with Isabella, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2008
"Since the beginning of the pandemic, for the first time since I moved to NYC in 2000, I have been feeling really apart from my family. The ocean, which before was crossable in a mere eight hours, became immense when the borders of both continents were respectively closed. The idea that in case of a family emergency, I would not be able to reach them tears me apart. It is a type of separation that I hadn’t experience before because it is imposed by something larger than me. As long as we know that the person we love is reachable when we like, as long as they are well and alive, it doesn’t really matter if we are not together. But it’s when the separation is imposed by a power outside of us, whether political or natural, that the pain, the sense of loneliness, the violence of the separation really finds its place into our heart."
— Luisa Rabbia on Poles
"At close range, one can perceive traces of the artist’s hand, in spirals of entangled colors and imprints of the artist’s fingertips, yet at the same time these works leave no doubt that Rabbia’s vision is expansive, conceiving and controlling vast spaces."
— Ida Panicelli, Luisa Rabbia: Collezione Maramotti, Artforum, 2018
"Rainbows are symbols of hope in many cultures, a promise of better times to come. They have been used to represent sexual diversity and desire of acceptance, respect and equal rights. In some cultures, such as the Japanese, they are bridges between our world and the afterlife. I painted I Am Rainbow during the current American expressions of division and social conflict, trying to send out a message of hope and courage into the future. The title aims to make everyone responsible and part of the rainbow. But I Am Rainbow speaks also to how our being is not a stable form, of how we change and transform over the course of time. I do not refer only to the possibility that we come from spirit, become matter, and go back into spirit, but also to the many nuances and transformations that can occur throughout the course of our life. We can potentially be everything. We contain many."
— Luisa Rabbia on I Am Rainbow
"With her gradual adoption of the operational modalities of painting, Rabbia has also shifted her iconographic vocation from the inscription of the social to the exploration of an inner world, a connaissance par les gouffres touching an imaginal amalgam of abyssal flora, human viscera, geological depths."
— Mario Diacono, excerpt from the catalogue Luisa Rabbia: Love, Collezione Maramotti, 2017
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Artwork photos by Dario Lasagni