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Volcanic Rock Art Brings the Badlands to the Gallery

Bosco Sodi's 'Malpaís' exhibiton is an 11,000 sq. ft. spectacle.
Images courtesy the artist

At first glance, these monochrome paintings might look like overhead photographs of deserts, or perhaps the blood remains of a Hermann Nitsch action. But don’t let your eyes deceive you—these are the natural object paintings of Mexican-American artist, Bosco Sodi, from his new show entitled, Malpaís. Collector and patron Brandon Davis Projects, alongside the Paul Kasmin Gallery, are hosting a new collection of the artist’s solid clay cubes, volcanic rocks, and monochrome object paintings inside an 11,000 sq. ft. offsite artspace in Los Angeles. Needless to say, these are some big artworks.


Malpaís, which means "badland," is a Spanish term used to describe the dry and desolate landscapes of Mexican and Southwestern deserts, a visual expression Sodi no doubt tries to recreate in his artwork. But his rugged object paintings are more than just piles of dried dirt on canvas. Within this diverse collection of dense monochromes, Sodi creates individually unique textures using raw color pigments that he mixes with a variety of organic materials like sawdust, wood pulp, and natural fibers. The artist pieces all these different components together with glue that he applies sequentially, one layer at a time. As the concoction of natural materials begins to dry, the surface starts to crack, creating new patterns and impressions on the canvas.

Sodi’s volcanic rock sculptures are created from samples of dried volcanic magma taken from the Ceboruco volcano in Nayarit, Mexico. Each rock sample is selected based on its shape and exterior frame. The rocks are then coated in a red or gold glaze and fired for three days under high temperatures, a process that contorts the rock’s surface texture and creates an “incongruity between the setting and the source, and the exterior and core, of each piece,” according to the show’s description.

Sodi gathers the materials for his solid clay cube sculptures from his home in Oaxaca, Mexico. He extracts his materials from the ground, mixing raw earth with water and sand to create a unique clay substance. He then packs the clay into geometric squares, and then proceeds to smooth down each face of the cube with his hands, creating subtly warped surfaces. Standing about half a meter off the ground, the clay cubes are stacked one on top of the other, into almost-lopsided columns. Viewers are encouraged to walk through the arrangement of clay pillars and observe the structures from different perspectives.


Malpaís will be on display in Los Angeles through October 8. For more information about the show, head over to Brandon Davis Projects, and for more work by the artist, head over to his website.


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