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Maritta Tapanainen
at Couturier Gallery, Los Angeles, California
Preview by Margarita Nieto

A trio of collage artists, Echiko Ohira, Maritta Tapanainen and Alan Valencia expand the boundaries of paper usage

In the exhibition, “Paper Works,” Echiko Ohira, Maritta Tapanainen and Alan Valencia reveal the common purpose of extending and expanding the boundaries of paper or more specifically collage. Derived from the French, “coller” to glue or to affix, collage is considered to have originated in cubist experimentations, most notably in the works of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Yet its global history also cites its origin in China with the invention of paper, and to calligraphy in 10th century Japan. That said, and as if to attest to that broader history, the exploration and imagination that emerges collectively and individually in this exhibition also presents a larger and more expansive view of collage than the two-dimensional attributes usually associated with the medium. While each of the artists work in the Los Angeles area, and two of the three, Ohira and Tapanainen, enjoy already established reputations, these artists have also come here from far-flung places, specifically Japan (Ohira), Finland (Tapananainen) and the Philippines (Valencia).

Tapanainen lays down “lines” and forms that she cuts out from old illustrated manuals of technological and mechanical images onto a mosaic-like collaged surface.  Blurring the lines between drawing and pasted line, she places the images on the  collaged and monochromatic background, creating rhythmic and energetic works that are two-dimensional, but that seemingly jump out at the viewer.  In “Rock” a myriad of squiggles, geometric blocks, ladders that overlap and criss-cross, dare the eye to distinguish between a graphic rendering or the pasted collage material. “Underworld,” is layer upon layer of pure abstraction, and yet, these forms conjure an image of an watery underworld, a view of a microcosmic world beneath the sea. The rhythmic balance and cohesive unity that seems created by chance is  reminiscent of Wassily Kandinsky’s “Kleine Welt” pieces. Like those works, these too are  microcosms of emerging universes that Tapanainen conjures from the detritus of idle and forgotten printed matter. Set off by a black background, lyrical curved lines intersect and contrast with curvilinear forms in white and gray in “Ilo Ita (Delightful Night).” The black against white contrast energizes the spiraling constellation-like forms that seemingly move across the surface.

Countering these worlds, Ohira takes collage directly into three-dimensions. Expanding beyond the limitation of the exhibition’s “Paper” title, she lays cotton thread upon tea-stained paper, forcing the work to spiral upward into a rounded sculptural form (“Whirl”). “Red Whirl #2” stands alone. The paper, infused with red acrylic and also utilizing cotton thread, spirals up and around forming a large evanescent rose-like sculpture that illuminates its surrounding space.  Tea-stained papers and fragile leaves and plant material in “Beginnings” add up to a meditative study on emerging life and matter. Two bursts of light composed of thread and paper emerge from within “Untitled-Blue” and “Untitled-Red and Gold 2.” Both form energetic waves that defy the two-dimensionality of the works. Ohira’s gift is  to transcend the boundaries of what paper has been. She deftly allows her materials to gather new life in relief forms that pull away from the wall.

If Tapanainen’s work defies the borders between the graphic and the pasted line, Valencia’s small precious framed collage boxes covered with glass create windows into tiny spaces that expand perception. Through his visions of abstract spaces with architectural references, washed over with a soft pastel palette that at times contrasts with photomontage, these works often evoke memories, not through representation but rather through the introspection that they arouse. Non-referential, they float beneath the glass surface of the box, at times obliterating and simultaneously enhancing what we see. Given the abstract spaces, the feeling for what is inside these boxes is informed by association and memory.

Challenging the status quo of the medium through their individual creative journeys, these three artists also call to mind that Los Angeles is itself a micro-space. In the shared space of the gallery the experience of creative individuality, urban ecology, and multi-cultural variety are brought together under the unifying umbrella of collage.

Published courtesy of ArtSceneCal @2011

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