“The weather keeps changing at each moment because of the clouds and the strong wind... I cannot explain what a wonderful day this has been. what marvelous effects, although never lasting longer than five minutes, it drives me crazy. no, there is no country more extraordinary than this one...”
—Claude Monet, London, 1901
Frieze Sculpture in London will present a monumental, solo form by Los Angeles-based artist Gisela Colón (b. 1966). Her first presentation in London, Colón’s Quantum Shift (Parabolic Monolith Sirius Titanium), 2021 marks a significant departure in scale in the artist’s practice. In recent years, her ambitious monoliths have nearly doubled in size, expanding into the territory of Land Art.
Colón’s contribution to Frieze dazzles in homage to the shape-shifting properties of L.A.’s Light and Space movement, seizing light and color on its surface in one moment, only to set it free in the next. Most of all, Colón’s exploration of light and atmospheric effects in London bears the mark of Impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926). After all, it was the master of light who memorably stated, “Without fog London would not be beautiful.” Toward the end of Monet’s career, his unwavering obsession with London drove him to paint three major and brilliant series – views of the Houses of Parliament, Waterloo Bridge, and Charing Cross Bridge – each dominated by subtle variations in the light and atmosphere due to the famous London fog, which enveloped the city especially in autumn and winter. In Monet’s mystical visions of London, the impalpable become the tangible and the once articulated architecture of the city dissolves as effortlessly as their shadows.
Installed in the English Gardens in the southeast corner of Regent’s Park, Colón’s Quantum Shift radiates with a subdued pink glow, as if plucked from Monet’s palette. As viewers orbit the work, halos of light blink in hazy irises of colored lilac. Even a Foxglove tree at the north end of the gardens, known to bloom majestic purples between June and September, finds its spring memorialized on the sculpture’s surface. Originally from China, Foxgloves’ egg-shaped seed pods were used to protect Chinese porcelain when packed for export. The inevitable spillage dispersed seeds as far reaching as Great Britain and the United States. Absorbing even the faintest of particularities, Colón’s work echoes the powerful, yet mistakenly unknown work of Land artist Michelle Stuart (b. 1933). Since the 1960s, Stuart has pressed the earth onto large scrolls of paper, forming impressions of the land to explore the product of memory and physical connections to site.
Over the course of Colón’s career, she has remained close to the beacon of Southern California Light and Space artists (Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, and De Wain Valentine, among others). Indeed, it was Valentine, a mentor and close friend of the artist, who encouraged Colón to shift her artistic beginnings as a painter toward three-dimensional forms. Colón’s works since have assumed Pods, Slabs, Portals, and Monoliths, each having worn the reductive geometries of Light and Space’s New York counterpart, Minimalism. Bridging the two coasts, Colón has developed a distinctive vocabulary, often described by the artist as ‘Organic Minimalism.’
Here in Regent’s Park, Colón reclaims the history of Earthworks, connecting to a precise moment in the 1970s when women dominated the landscape. Inflecting the central concerns of Light and Space, namely the experience of perception, through strategies of female Land artists, Colón’s monoliths offer an unprecedented phenomenological experience of the natural world, with the natural world.
BY JOACHIM PISSARRO
Frieze Sculpture coincides with Frieze London and Frieze Masters 2021, and will have a virtual presence on the Frieze London and Frieze Masters Viewing Room, 13–17 October, 2021.
Frieze Sculpture opens in the English Gardens of The Regent's Park, London, from 14 September - 31 October, 2021 and is free and open to all.