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Energy Itself Is This Artist's Medium | City of the Seekers

Lita Albuquerque is the quintessential LA artist, even if there's still no name for her style.
Particle Horizon, 2014, Laguna Art Museum (photo credit: Eric Stoner)

In the late 19th century, Southern California attracted misfits, idealists, and entrepreneurs with few ties to anyone or anything. Swamis, spiritualists, and other self-proclaimed religious authorities quickly made their way out West to forge new faiths. Independent book publishers, motivational speakers, and metaphysical-minded artists and writers then became part of the Los Angeles landscape. City of the Seekers examines how creative freedom enables LA-based artists to make spiritual work as part of their practices.


Artist Lita Albuquerque has been grouped into both the light and space and land art movements, but as many in her audience (Albuquerque included) believe, there isn't exactly a term for her own style of art—at least not yet.

Albuquerque began making art during the zenith of post-minimalism, which enabled her to develop a style that merges abstraction with essentialism and facilitates receptivity by transforming energy. In fact, energy is both a medium and a theme that runs through Albuquerque's wide-ranging works, which include installations, paintings, performance, and sculpture. "My art is about energy, the transmutation of energy, the harnessing of energy, and the power of energy through materiality," Albuquerque tells The Creators Project.


Wind tunnel testing for Stellar Axix: Antarctica, 2006 (photo credit: Sophie Pegrum)

Born in Santa Monica, California, Albuquerque grew up in Carthage, Tunisia before relocating back to the LA area by way of Paris as a teenager. She earned a degree at UCLA in Art History, returned briefly to Paris, but finally settled back in Southern California, drawn by the scope and unique visual features of its land, as well as the quality of light and its ability to permit individuals to become absorbed into the landscape. She continues to work in the LA area today, both as a practicing artist with two studios, and as an instructor in the Fine Art Graduate program at Art Center College of Design where she teaches courses including, "Process, Method, Sense" and "Theories of Construction."


Spine of the Earth 2012, 2012. Getty Museum PST Performance Festival (photo credit: Michael Light)

Albuquerque's technique is based on both internal and external influences, which enable her to manipulate her existing conditions and engage intuitively with the space around her, all while working from a place that is both free and receptive. "What compels me are the visions that need materialization: the desire to physicalize thought, to physicalize and materialize a mental image of connectedness," she explains. "My intention is to make the subtle world emerge, to speak to invisible yet felt energies that move through us; to elevate our perceptions that through materiality, abstraction, and color translate into vibration and energy, pierce through the veil. To deliver an image, a whole image, that will be taken in and understood."


Sometimes the sea is silver, sometimes it is actually red, other times it is an azure blue. Or is it ultramarine? 2014, Pasadena Museum of California Art (photo credit: Lita Albuquerque)

Nature's elements and the universe are both major inspirations in her art, as is the investigation and discovery of what lies beyond. Albuquerque is also inspired by tantric philosophy and the fact that sound vibrations create light. As far as her own philosophy, however, says Albuquerque, "It is not something that can be described, as it is fluid, elusive and forever-changing, and at the same time, commonplace, obvious, right in front of you! It can’t come from a prescribed place, from a linear way of thinking. I have to put myself in a position to catch it. It is like an animal—there is no logic, it comes to you, and you have to tame it or learn to dance with it."


An Elongated Now, 2014, performance, Laguna Art Museum (photo credit: James McCusker)

Having been raised in the burgeoning artistic community of Los Angeles, Albuquerque explains, "The word 'spiritual’ was taboo in art, and its local history is not something I was consciously aware of. But that my own background and interests led me there is suggestive of the fact that we in fact live 'on the shoulders of giants' and that the spiritual groundwork has actually been quite cultivated […] I wonder if I had come up into the art world in New York if I would have been drawn to the esoteric, or is it the landscape itself that draws us? Perhaps it is Los Angeles and its sense of alienation that permits and attracts people to the anonymity of 'the Wild West.'”

However, Albuquerque acknowledges that the sense of alienation and anonymity has since been superseded by a vibrant community of LA artists working in performance, dance, sound, and all other kinds of media, which has blown up over the course of the past 15 years. This has enabled the artist herself to work from a more sophisticated, conscious place that, just like sound and energy, continues to affect the very nature of her work.


Stellar Axis: Antarctica, 2006. Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica (photo credit: Jean de Pomereu)


Installation view of Embodiment, 2016, Kohn Gallery (courtesy of the artist and Kohn Gallery)


Film Still, 20/20: Accelerando, 2016 (courtesy of the artist)


Installation view of 20/20: Accelerando, 2016, USC Fisher Museum of Art (photo credit: Marc Breslin)

Visit Lita Albuquerque's website here.


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