Nava Lubelski: Roomful at LMAKProjects

by Kris Scheifele

October 28 – December 11, 2011

Image courtesy of LMAKprojects.

Nava Lubelski’s last show at LMAKProjects was a blood bath, or so it seemed. Along one wall, a row of white canvases appeared to have fallen victim to a drive-by. However, the red splatter turned out to be Lubelski’s signature embroidery. Combining the mid-20th century maneuvers of Jackson Pollock, Morris Louis, and Alberto Burri with what was once considered strictly ‘women’s work,’ she elevates the flaw to stylistic form by highlighting and solidifying drips, stains, and holes with her meticulous stitching. In her latest show, an eviscerated electric blanket replaces the cartoon carnage of two years prior. As if it were used to cover an oozing corpse caught in the same crossfire, the blanket’s ripped-out wiring evokes the IV and the failing body; the bright pink color makes it all the more disturbing.
While this exhibition is a bit of a hodgepodge, other pieces tie-in with this kind of troubled domesticity and its invocation of mortality. In Gone, a once vibrant forest green can still be glimpsed in the seams of the antique chair’s faded velvet upholstery. In the center of the seat, where a sitter’s privates would land, is a hole; it is adorned with a stitched, white cobweb and skirted by the outline of more red splatter. Here, the old-maid joke meets the menstrual mishap. Down the back are drips stitched in  white thread. (Was the chair an outdoor bird perch or is this another kind of bodily fluid?) Either way, everything is spent.

Image courtesy of LMAKprojects.

First Cavalry, nearly the same moldy green as the dilapidated chair, practically made itself. Rescued from a factory’s reject pile, the mass-produced embroidered patches will never adorn the cavalry soldiers for whom they were intended. Within the context of the exhibition, it feels like a haunted house tapestry, but it does not depict glorified medieval battle scenes. Instead, the rows of partially sewn horse silhouettes serve as a kind of scoreboard for who — and which of their parts — will be coming home from war. The pathetic, pink stitched embellishments fail to remedy these losses.

True to its name, the exhibition is indeed a roomful. Despite the fact that rooms have pictures on the wall, the indistinct punctured and repaired canvases seem unnecessary while the cobweb installation of black fabric scraps is really out of place; Lubelski might have done well to stick with household and found items. Portfolio is an exception to this over-stuffed incoherence. It is a variation on her other paper works in which hoarded documents, such as tax files, are cut, rolled, and arranged in swirling, biomorphic patterns. In this instance, a collection of 1940s art school drawings was destroyed as it was preserved, in much the same way as Dario Robleto turned Civil War era ephemera into unrecognizable ingredients in his ruminations on love and loss. With less controversy, Lubelski hits her mark with the creepy, old stuff people can’t let go of but don’t want to keep.

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