I met Alicia Ordal last month at her home and studio. She lives in a small one bedroom and besides her two cats, odds and ends- her living quarters function mostly as a studio. Works in progress as well as finished collages line the walls with 1980 vinyl records propped below. Across the room is a brick wall lined with two filmy curtains and an unused fishbowl on a shelf. It’s an intriguing space.
When I first started looking at her work during her residency at Redline Denver (2009?) she was working on these floppy, minimalist pipe cleaner sculptures- one of which Bruce Price eventually wore on his head during his performance I am a Cloud at Plus Gallery.
She’s gone on combining the essence of the pipe cleaner and imagined space within surreal photography, making elaborate deconstructed sculptures, collages and her most current staged work in photography. Even though fabricated with sets of distinctly different materials there is a sameness to the different bodies of work through her use of similar compositional devices.
There is a transition between the work with pipe cleaners, photographs with the softness of the pipe cleaners, the symmetry and central framing in the collages, and her photographic settings with her application of framing, structure, architecture as structure (or structure as architecture) and imagined space. A pipe cleaner or deconstructed object, cast shadows, curtains and even hair provide a permanence of pattern that both intensifies and tethers imagined space. Wild fantasy and science fiction is tamed.
Ordal’s interdisciplinary work also intersects or connects around market and hypercommodification. Materials such as the gold chain, or leather present as buffed, glistening, lustrous, rubbed, satin, satiny, and sleek. The photographs and magazine pages are neat and clean- even when ripped. Compositions are refined. Polished. A burnished mannequin, soft aqua water, and soft puffy clouds, pages from glossy magazines.
The women in her photography neither lie down in waiting, nor do they aggressively take up extra space with muscular limbs askew. Bodies float, glide and rest lightly. Faces are obscured. I asked her “Where do you think your work fits in the current photography and collage trend that obscures, scratches and pastes over faces?” Ordal replied that “Faces are distracting. I see the body as a formal thing. I’m sensitive to women’s vulnerability, to look good, and to photography’s quick ability to become too pretty.”
There is something else here as well. Her photography references ‘almost’ fashion photography. It is and then decidedly isn’t. In the work, You’ll Leave Your Body, the highly tanned (almost orange) glossy mannequin is reified almost to the point of speech. The body seems to come forward into the smoke, brandishing a thatch of hardened grass. The black soft glistening wig highlights the impossibility of speech and hardens the fetish. Or does it reclaim the body (versus the mouth) as a site of the performative?
Asking her about titles of her works, as I was snapping shots, Ordal explained that she doesn’t always title nor verbalize her work. I noted that this defence lies within the interconnectivity between the bodies of work and sheer volume. Volume of production not to be confused with scale.
Scale of her collage work came into the conversation multiple times. Noticing compositional similarities between her collages and the small staged paintings by Karen Kilimnik currently on exhibit at the MCA Denver I asked her if she had considered the scale of the work as part of the content?
She answered that the “Formal qualities, the central compositions had recently become a bit repetitive. I’m now ready to increase the scale which will alter the compositions.” She’s considering the impact of scale on the collage work. Photographs and sculpture are different and all three are affected by material as well as process. Much of her collage work is started with the ripping of a page from a magazine.
Hopefully you were able to make it to see Ordal’s photographs and collages that were included in three group exhibitions around town as part of the lineup for the Month of Photography- Vital Illusion at Vertigo Art Space, Hinterland’s seen.unseen and with our backs on the arch at Forest Studio. If not, stay tuned for Ordal’s new and larger collages that will be included in a group exhibition Cut and Paste at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in June, 2013.