Lisa Solberg’s artwork has always been visceral, aggressive, and emotionally moving, but it hasn’t always been made of massive Celotex panels. The Los Angeles-based visual artist has taken a break from her trademark large-scale, expressionistic paintings for something even larger, filling the room at THIS Gallery in LA with four foot-by-eight foot silver rectangles covered in etchings. They’re part of Stalker, her latest solo show that runs today through July 14, which Solberg describes as being “a study of romanticism and the sublime. It’s also a complete and honest reflection of myself, as most of my work is.” We’d also describe it as an exciting change for the 29-year-old, but one she promises is not indicative of a larger shift: “I’m most definitely not moving away from painting—I think I just needed to get this all out!” Solberg spoke with ELLE.com about how her hands are changing and why bathroom walls are sometimes the best galleries.
ELLE: Was there any specific inspiration for the pieces in Stalker?
Lisa Solberg: For the installation as a whole, I was inspired by Rudolf Stingel’s installation at the Whitney in 2007. The concept and the subject matter all sort of came to fruition as I began. This project is a culmination, I feel like, of so many things I’ve been wanting to do and express for years now. Everything is definitely left on the panels.
ELLE: How long did it take to make all of them? It seems like it would have been quite time-consuming.
LS: I’ve been working on the pieces for months now, keeping a sketch of the gallery space with the dimensions as my blueprint. If I didn’t plan months in advance which panels go where, I doubt it would have come together as it has. All the drawings and markings and brushstrokes interweave together from panel to panel. The idea was to make each individual panel work alone as well as as a whole. The actual installation of the pieces in the gallery has involved a small group of people helping, and it’s [taken] about a week.
ELLE: Is it a big change from your previous pieces?
LS: This project is so much different from anything else I’ve ever done. I’m a one-track mind right now, thinking only silver. The content on these pieces are shiny versions of what you find in my sketchbooks. It’s nice to finally be able to exhibit a combination of the drawings, painting, and cutting—[that is] sculpture—all on a grand scale, all working together. The evolution for me has been primarily in the way my hand moves on the canvas, incorporating more acute and refined strokes with the larger more gestural ones. I’m building up more layers, while trying to keep the same feeling of the moment as king.
ELLE: The general vibe of the piece reminds me in some ways—and I don’t mean this in a bad way—of bathroom walls you’d find in dive bars.
LS: I would take that as a compliment, for sure—I love the freedom that is exuded from artwork on a dive bar bathroom wall, for example. Especially when it really works; when the layers build up and over time it turns into something beautiful. There are always sections that work alone and standing back you experience something entirely different. I love this relation in public “art” from the more local to the global markings. One person came over for a studio visit recently and remarked that the pieces for Stalker reminded him of the Berlin Wall. I think that’s why it’s important to see this in person; it has a grandiose yet intimate feeling to it, and it transcends a typical surface due to the reflective silver on the material. You really get a feeling of being transported while being close to yourself.
ELLE: In what ways does living in Los Angeles affect your artwork?
LS: The open space of LA has granted me the opportunity to work freely and in the scale that I prefer. If I were in New York City, I wouldn’t have the freedom to do all these large-scaled paintings that I’ve been doing the past five years. Being downtown cancels out the whole beach inspiration, but I can’t say that I am really that inspired by “nature” in particular for my work—I use it primarily to balance myself on my off days.
ELLE: After Stalker, what’s next for you?
LS: I’ve been trying to limit those outside fantasies for the moment (although I always have a long list of ideas). I’m interested in starting a new website with special certain videos that I film on my phone. Nothing extremely original, and I don’t want to spoil the idea just yet, but it’s coming! I also really want to do a self-portrait of myself sitting on a lion with a bunny next to me, and a bat on my shoulder. Maybe I’ll just have someone take a photo of me doing that?