It’s a popular theme in art, and particularly in music—the intriguing notion that we, and everything around us, are made of ancient star particles (think Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”: “we are stardust, we are golden…”). The American-born Light and Space artist Lita Albuquerque has been exploring related concepts for decades, perhaps most notably in 1996, when she represented the United States at the International Cairo Biennale. The event featured her installation Sol Star, a project in which Albuquerque marked the Egyptian desert with blue circles that were each associated with a star.
In her new show at Peter Blake Gallery, Albuquerque sharpens her focus, working not only with larger questions of the cosmos, but with concrete remnants of the stars: fossilized brachiopods, three hundred million years old, preserved in the darkest corners of the world and the deepest parts of the ocean. The shapes inspire her paintings, photographs, and sculptures made of steel and fiberglass. A collection in vivid blue and pale, almost incandescent yellow, the works are at once stark and mesmerizing. Gold leaf adds an ethereal glow to Solar Vacillation (White Light) and the powerful but understated Untitled (Auric Field), while the spherical sculpture Spica radiates electric blue, and the smaller, more textural Ultramarinus resembles a piece of actual moon rock.
Such depictions might appear literal, but make no mistake, in these works, Albuquerque is also raising broader questions about the scale of the universe and the relationship between man and the cosmos. Peter Blake is in southern California, after all, a region considered the birthplace of the Light and Space movement—also known as California Minimalism—of which Albuquerque is a proponent and even a pioneer. It’s said that the quality of light in Los Angeles is what inspired the movement’s foremost artists to experiment with environment, light, and the ways that viewers experience it. Albuquerque might have made a name for herself on another continent, but it seems there’s no better place to experience her luminous artworks in person as in Laguna Beach, sunlight-bathed, and at night, blanketed in the glow of faraway stars.
Lita Albuquerque is on view at Peter Blake Gallery, Laguna Beach, Nov. 6–Dec. 8, 2014.