Annie Lapin: Paintings Are Both Furniture and Talismans

Modern Painters and Angeleno magazines have recently noted Annie Lapin and her work as vital to the Los Angeles arts community.
08/06/2012 12:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Landly Landly Landly!!!, 2011, Oil on canvas, 49 ½ x 40 inches, Courtesy Annie Lapin and Honor Fraser

Annie Lapin received an MFA from UCLA and a BA from Yale University. Her museum exhibitions include the Pasadena Museum of California Art, Pasadena, CA; Grand Arts, Kansas City, MO. Her work has been exhibited at Honor Fraser, Angles Gallery, and LA Louver in Los Angeles, Galerie Lelong and Fredericks and Frasier in New York and Barbara Davis in Houston.

Modern Painters and Angeleno magazines have recently noted Lapin and her work as vital to the Los Angeles arts community, and she was the Editor's Pick in New American Paintings, January 2011.

Why do you use these particular materials?

I am obsessed with how meaning radiates through various forms and materials, so I do consider and play with every medium in my studio. However, I find I always return to painting. Painting can splinter experience, embodying the most extreme dualities, in a way that's pretty unique. It can be the most basic physical record of an action, and yet it will operate like a magnet for intense mental projections. It can be a commodity, and also a ritualistic object that psychologically warps space even while it flatly and silently hangs on the wall. It is this thing in the world, sometimes just a surface, but despite all its thingy and coded baggage, history and deconstructability, it can still project an aura. To me, the fact that it can be all these things means that it has the potential to cut through the cynicism inherent to itself... there's something urgent in that thought to me.

Name an artist you'd like to be compared to.

The fictional character, Charles Strickland, from Maugham's novel, The Moon and Sixpence, but only in the last five years of his life, when he is going blind, living alone in a room where he paints and repaints the walls until he dies, at which point his wife promptly burns the whole thing down. I doubt anyone would ever draw the comparison, but it's a story I think about a lot for some reason.

Recently, I've also been very interested in Sigmar Polke and Martin Kippenberger.

What can't you live without?

My studio.

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

Washed dishes for a summer in high school. Worked for the print shop at college. Also worked for a summer as an intern on an archaeological site in Guatemala. After college I worked as an administrator at a museum. While getting my MFA, I briefly volunteered at a hospital because some part of me believed there was a connection between practicing medicine and making art. Now I teach college and graduate classes from time to time.

What forms first in your mind, a concept or a skill you want to explore?

The initial thought is to make a "thing" out of everything, including non-physical things.

Does where you live influence your work?

Always. Just recently I moved into a new studio space and a new house. Each has it's own psychology and formal dynamic, which changes drastically from the slightest physical intervention. It's how I've always understood paint on a canvas, but these recent changes in my living arrangements have shifted some of my focus to the way meaning shifts around in space through formal arrangements of architecture and its uses. Now I keep thinking about gallery spaces, studio spaces, and domestic spaces. Not just generally, but in my own painting terms: the operation of each, and the psychological and formal properties of these spaces, the ways they might be fractured to create something new. While I remain rooted in the language of paint, I've begun to mine and recombine facets of different types of spaces in the same way I have often harvested art historical image. This idea has driven my most recent project History=ing at the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, which opens this week.

Is there any kind of media that affects the way you approach your work (i.e. film, TV, radio, social networking, print)?

All media ties into how we perceive things, so it all ties into my work. Also, to be making physical things in a time when so much of life takes place on a virtual plane definitely affects my practice.

What's the most important career break, you ever got?

It's hard for me to look back and hierarchize past exhibitions, reviews, etc. They all fall away in my mind whenever I consider the present body of work, which usually feels more important than anything I've done before. Since I'm always looking forward, somewhat anxiously, all my past "career breaks" start to feel like they don't count. Kind of a weird way of beating myself up. Maybe I'll get over it once I get older and am able to have retrospect.

What are the fundamental beliefs that drive the way you work?

1) A lexical sign is an index of itself, just like any other mark, but it is a mark of time, mind, and culture -- actions that take longer and seem intangible, but remain actions none-the-less.
2) Paintings are both furniture and talismans.

What comes first in your work, pleasure or pain?

Yearning is the word that first comes to mind. I wondered whether this feeling was more accepted as pleasure or pain, so I googled it, and the following two definitions came up first:
a) Have an intense feeling of loss or lack and longing for something.
b) Be filled with compassion or warm feeling

Annie Lapin's installation, History=ing opens at the Bloom Project space at the
Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum August 4th. She is currently working on a solo show which will open at Yautepec in Mexico City on September 13th.

Annie Lapin: Paintings Are Both Furniture and Talismans