Lisa Blas is a visual artist based in New York, working in painting, collage, photography, and installation. Her most recent work in collage (2013 – present) addresses the fragility of the environment, civil unrest, and its reoccurrence across time. Abstract images and typographical fields are composed alluding to specimens of nature, proper names, disappearing geography, and newspaper headlines. The collages are constructed from sheets of watercolor paper that she paints with layers of interference and iridescent color, cuts into shapes or letters, and affixes to vellum and heavy Arches paper. Working on these supports in medium to large scale, she allows for play with opticality and depth of field, as the material shifts in color and tonality upon closer inspection.
Lisa Blas has exhibited nationally and internationally, while living and working in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Brussels, during the years of 2001 - 2012. She holds a B.A. (1996) in Political Science from the University of Southern California and an M.F.A. (2001) in Painting, from Claremont Graduate University. With a special interest in museum collections and historical archives, she spent five years living and working in Washington, DC, that culminated in the large- scale installation entitled Meet Me at the Mason Dixon, featuring painting, photography and a 9 x 15 foot wall of ephemera. She describes that installation as a meditation on the nexus of heroism, criminality and fame that defines American identity, conflating the Civil War with the present in one “dialectical image” (W. Benjamin). Meet Me at the Mason Dixon was exhibited in its entirety at Gettysburg College in 2011, with a catalog and texts by art historian Miguel de Baca.
Blas recently produced an artist project for the 2016 issue of Public Art Dialogue: The Dilemma of Public Art’s Permanence, edited by Erika Doss. These images were generated from the residue of collage work, where various paper cuttings were used in ephemeral still lives and photographed.
Her interests in the digital and printed image continue further in an ongoing project, entitled “Monday’s image”. Since 2015, every Monday, she pairs the front page of the local newspaper with the image of an artwork culled from a museum collection. These “Monday’s image” postings are found on the News section of her website. In winter 2017, “Monday’s image” will be mounted as a video work at the Emily Harvey Foundation in New York.
Recent solo exhibitions are LISA BLAS / After lost space(s), 2016, at Kai Matsumiya Gallery, New York; LISA BLAS / Still Lifes, Sometimes Repeated, 2012-13, at Rossicontemporary, Brussels; LISA BLAS / As if pruning a tree, after Matisse, 2011, at Musée Matisse, Cateau-Cambrésis, France; LISA BLAS / Meet Me at the Mason Dixon, 2011, at Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania.
Recent group exhibitions are Foundation Barbin Presents: Redeux (Sort of), 2016, at Kai Matsumiya Gallery, New York; Sensations That Announce The Future, 2015, at Evergreen College Gallery, Olympia, Washington; and A Particular Kind of Solitude: An exhibition inspired by the writings of Robert Walser, 2014, at the Elizabeth Street Garden, New York.
Concurrent with making her work, Blas has taught at the Corcoran College of Art & Design, George Washington University, Arlington Arts Center, Université de Lille 3, University of California at Riverside, and Pomona College. She has also been invited in varying capacities as a visiting artist at La Cambre (Ecole nationale supérieure des arts visuels, Brussels), Gettysburg College, the School of Visual Arts, New York, and American University, Washington, DC, in addition to giving recent talks at Brooklyn Art Space, Evergreen College, WA, and University of Virginia, Charlottesville.
Working in collage, I construct abstract images and text works that evoke the fragility of the natural world and our fraught socio-political landscape. The sources of these works are nineteenth century photographs of botanical specimens, modern day geographical spaces that have disappeared due to natural and man-made disasters, and fragments of newspaper headlines alluding to such events.
I begin each collage by painting sheets of watercolor paper, determining a specific palette of stained and overlaid strokes of interference and iridescent color, until a particular tonality and mode of application is reached. I then cut the paper into angular and curvilinear shapes or letters, and affix them to my supports of 20 x 26” Opalux vellum and 51 x 90” sheets of Arches paper. I pay special attention to the way negative space structures the composition. The works on Arches have a strong materiality and function quasi-sculpturally on the wall. The vellum works are composed of two sheets, arranged one on top of the other. There are two options for display: A over B, or B over A.
Most recently, I began working from poems, combining fragments of sentences that point to my chosen subjects. Included in this exhibition is a large-scale collage work on Arches paper inspired by the images brought forth in the writings of Seamus Heaney and Pablo Neruda. The poems I excerpted are “Exposure” and “The Citizen”, respectively. Rather than using a modern font, such as Helvetica, I use Benedictus, a gothic style font located graphically between those used for the mastheads of The New York Times and The Times- Picayune (the New Orleans newspaper that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath). I wish to create a dissonance between fragments of language and the time period evoked by the font.