Cultured Magazine

Winter 2016

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200 Analia Saban's studio in Santa Monica is crammed with machines, contraptions and tools, making it look like an experimental workshop. In one corner, there's something that resembles a medieval stretcher; clamped to it is a 900-pound rectangular slab of concrete that two assistants are slowly crushing by moving it through a roller. "The concrete has some weaker points and a structure of stainless steel and fabric mesh," says the Argentine artist. By the end of the process, the material will be so transformed that "it can fold in half as if it was a blanket." A couple feet away, a weaver is seated behind a large loom that the artist recently acquired. Saban is exploring how to take paint and create "yarn" with it. "I paint long brush strokes on a piece of Plexiglas and when they dry I can pull them off and they are objects in themselves," she says. With these long ropes of paint, "we can weave it through a canvas. It's a different way of applying paint." She's also MacGyvered a laser-cutting device into a painting machine by attaching a brush to the tip of the stylus arm and running paint through it. In her still-young career, Saban has become well-known for her investigations into what materials and techniques can do when approached in new ways. Now, she's the subject of her first major museum exhibition, which runs through March 18, 2017, at the University of Houston's Blaffer Art Museum. Arranged chronologically, the show begins with a seminal piece, The Painting Ball (48 Abstract, 42 Landscapes, 23 Still Lives, 11 Portraits, 2 Religious, 1 Nude), which Saban created for her MFA Thesis Exhibition at UCLA in 2005. It's a ball, 26 inches in diameter, made from the fibers of 100 paintings that the artist carefully unwove. "I felt that if I unraveled a painting, I could show it in a different way, almost as sculpture," says Saban. The show's curator, Claudia Schmuckli— curator-in-charge of contemporary art and programming at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco—says she became interested in the artist because "she plumbs the histories of painting, drawing, sculpture and photography to challenge their capacities by making the parts of each medium the very subject matter of her inquiry." The exhibit shows a clear through-line: Saban's work, at once elegant and clever, is art about the making of art. In her 2012 work Trough (Flesh), Saban explored yet another way to create a painting. She draped enough canvas on a frame so that it hung down to form a baggy basin. She then filled it with 125 pounds of flesh-colored oil paint. "It's basically my body weight in oil paint and it never dries so it really does feel like a body," says Saban. In her 2013 piece Claim (from chair), Saban toyed with the boundaries of a canvas and art's relationship to its surroundings when she commissioned an upholstery company to make a chair. The upholsters left an excess of beige linen fabric attached, allowing Saban to stretch it onto a frame and create a sort of painting that's connected to and hung above the furniture. In this case, the art doesn't just match the sofa; it comes as a set. Saban was also the focus of two shows in Los Angeles this fall. Through December 2, West Hollywood's Gemini G.E.L. is showing works including a group of continuous-line drawings done using her rejiggered laser-cutter, while downtown L.A.'s Mixografia was exhibiting "Paper or Plastic?" a series of trompe l'oeil-like three-dimensional prints of disposable shopping bags. Saban ascribes some of her interest in materiality to the influence of an uncle who sold fabric. "I remember him ripping apart pieces of fabric to cut it," she recalls. After undergraduate studies at Loyola University New Orleans, she was accepted into the renowned MFA program at UCLA and studied under the likes of Paul McCarthy and John Baldessari, whose 1960s series of typographic pieces questioning what makes a good painting had a strong influence on her. Six years ago, Saban took over Baldessari's old studio in Santa Monica—"he was using it as storage"—the perfect place to continue her own research into the nature of art. "I'm very interested in trying to define and question what painting and sculpture are. I like to be disruptive." Meta Making With her first museum exhibition, Analia Saban's art about making art gets its greatest stage yet. BY DEGEN PENER The Painting Ball (48 Abstract, 42 Landscapes, 23 Still Lives, 11 Portraits, 2 Religious, 1 Nude), 2005. PHOTO BY JOSHUA WHITE, COLLECTION OF THE ARTIST

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