January 16, 2022
This week we recognize Constance Mallinson, and her forty plus year practice as a painter in Los Angeles, California.
"My earliest paintings are minimalist, and upon moving to Los Angeles in the late 1970’s I started to explore and connect with feminist artists and feminist art theory. I wanted to change from the hardcore reductive work that I was doing to something more personal, and this type of work felt really personal to me. For me, the tiny insistent repetitious marks were a way for me to assert my female body and presence. There is an insistence in building up a surface of thousands and thousands of tiny marks that is quite different from casting a piece with steel. This is my body engaging with the material."
click images for more info
More recently, Mallinson has engaged in apocalyptic imagery of the sublime landscape, as in "The Large Blass-t" (above), depicting a free fall of post-consumer objects through smoky skies, items she culled from urban streets. Now useless, these objects are dispensed of human attention and in their decaying state. They seem to challenge their own existence, with abundance transposed into waste. The paradox of higher standards of living as manifested by hyperconsumption and resulting ecological disasters is critical to understanding her work.
The artists' epic panoramic landscapes painted from 2001 to 2009 (above) began as an investigation into the relationship between photographic and painted representations of landscape. Literally thousands of appropriated landscape images were “collaged” via painting to form dense imaginary landscapes incorporating multiple perspectives from the microcosmic to the macro, and conflicting narratives. Superseding the traditional single view of the landscape, they engage ideas of received information and its overriding influence on our perceptions of the natural, as well as question historicist ideologies such as the Edenic, the pastoral, and the gendered gaze. Spanning geography, time zones, and seasons, these paintings are tours de force intheir scale and execution and have been appreciated for their ability to seduce and deliver a critique while simultaneously positing a continuing relevance for painting in an era of ubiquitous mass media.
Mallinson's Nature Morte paintings (above and below), are inspired by decaying natural materials and often include Archimboldo-esque human figures. Twisted branches, rotting stumps and logs, curling dried leaves and desiccated flora collected from the artists' daily walks through Los Angeles’ streets and canyons were painted from direct observation in a technique reminiscent of botanical illustration or trompe d’oeil. Some are painted on grainy plywood as “backdrops” for decomposing woodland scenes or Renaissance like saints. Suggesting a mutual vulnerability and destruction in an era of environmental instability, the paintings also represent a ruination of the previous pristine, scenery of her panoramic paintings or the progressive productions of Modernism itself. In some, fragments of human-made objects are intermingled with the flora and fauna to form eccentric, post-apocalyptic constructions, both an incrimination of wasteful consumer culture and a monument to its ongoing ingenuity.
Constance Mallinson (b.1948, Washington, D.C.) is a Los Angeles based painter, writer and curator. During her career, she has exhibited widely and her critically acclaimed paintings are included in the collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, The San Jose Museum, and the Pomona Art Museum, the National Academy of Sciences. She has taught all levels of studio art and criticism at the major colleges and universities in Southern California and has written for many art publications such as Art in America, Xtra, Artillery, the Times Quotidian, and numerous catalog essays for university art museums. Her most recent curatorial projects have included “Urbanature” at ArtCenter College of Design, "The Feminine Sublime" at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, and “Small is beautiful” at the Irvine Fine Arts Center. Mallinson is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a COLA Fellowship. Twenty-four of her collages, transferred to porcelain enamel steel, are permanently installed at the Bergamot Station Metro Station. www.constancemallinson.com
Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Constance Mallison, #2 (Green and Pink), 1979, acrylic on canvas, 66 1/2 x 94 inches; Large Blass-t, 2016, oil on canvas, 60 x 192 inches; What Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?, 2007, oil on canvas, 60 x 216 inches, from panoramic landscape series; You, 2008, oil on Rives paper, from the Nature Morte Series (2009-2011); Lost Woods, 2014, oil on plywood, 48 x 96 inches, from the Nature Morte Series (2009-2011); below, portrait of the artist taken by Eric Alter, 1977.