Lucien Shapiro Reflects on Obsession, Protection, and Identity in New Show
Lucien Shapiro is showing his newest exhibit From Ash to Diamonds in an upcoming exhibit at Hashimoto Contemporary. The artist's newest body of work meditates on the transformative power of destruction. This exhibition debuts an arsenal of sculptures forged from discarded materials.
The artist’s practice is anchored in an impulsive drive to collect from his surroundings. Shapiro re-contextualizes bottle caps, studs, and crystals into ornate relics. The objects are harrowing yet delicate, reminiscent of archeological treasures from a bygone civilization. This new collection of masks, vessels, and weapons confront the viewer to reflect upon obsession, protection, and identity.
Many of the pieces in “From Ash to Diamonds” predominately incorporate shattered auto glass, which the artist refers to as ‘street diamonds’. The material alludes to the artist’s long history in the San Francisco Bay Area, where car break-ins are a tragically common occurrence. By contemplating value and the enviability of loss, the work invites us to "forge a new beginning."
Hashimoto recently interviewed Lucien regarding the new show, which we've included below:
What’s been inspiring to you recently? What sparks the creation of a new piece?
For the last 2.5 years I haven’t been anywhere longer than 3 months, so new places and roads have been my inspiration. Recently I've been living in Detroit for a residency program, and so much inspiration outside of my head comes from my surroundings. At the moment this includes whatever I've been collecting from the abandoned buildings and streets out here. Although this show was mainly made in Mt. Shasta, the Bay Area, and a bit in NYC. I am reminded of nature and how I love that it will grow through and in anything given the proper time and elements. This is a very beautiful thought. Most of my pieces make themselves and transform in the same way, as if my hands and mind were similar elements. I feel the majority of my process is an exploration through the unconscious, some form of channeling and searching towards a better understanding of myself.
Your upcoming exhibition at Hashimoto Contemporary is titled “From Ash To Diamonds”. What ideas were you exploring with this new body of work?
When I decided the title for this show it was April, and I had been concentrating on the materials I use and how they inform the work. I thought a lot about how any maker begins from nothing; the materials I use tend to come from loss. Fire was a major concept of loss, and I questioned how can I work with it as a material, but I wanted to emphasize the growth or rising up from the ash or the flame. This may be overcoming an obstacle, moving forward etc., but "The Element of Fire has great power for forging will and determination.” And yes, the huge fires in and around my hometown were months from happening when I had already completed the work for this show. Although the work and focus of my show and timing of these devastating wildfires is weird and scary, it just added to my ability to help and communicate with people in and around the fire in a positive way, if that's even possible.
The commonly used street diamonds in my work led to research in the process of turning Ash to Diamonds, although this wasn't a process I used literally I liked the ideas of such a "precious " stone being made from Ash. Another discarded material I use often is the bottle cap; I burnt most of these as patina or finish.
In the exhibition, you’ve prominently used “street diamonds”. Can you tell us about this material and it’s significance?
The ideas of making a lot of this work from street diamonds I collected in San Francisco was important to me as well, to emphasize the always growing SF crime of people breaking into cars. It is not uncommon for anyone with a car that has lived or visited the city to find thousands of
street diamonds glimmering in light beside a car and scattered on the seats and floor. This is one of my favorite collecting processes, although I've been accused of breaking windows while caught sweeping up around recent victims, I honestly never have broken a window. I walk up and down streets sweeping up these little piles and separating colors between the rare black street diamond and more commonly found "ocean " or green color. I use them to build a crystal form as multiple elements, once again reusing what would be discarded materials to create something unexpected.
How do you think your work speaks to, and is informed by, the recent headlines?
I kind of already touched on this earlier. But definitely by coincidence or some kind of intuition I think I built a body of work based on an idea that had yet to happen. And now we can only be positive, work together to rebuild, and try and understand that these things happen so we can learn from them. And years from now I imagine everyone affected will look back and see the pivotal roll this incident had on their lives. (ps: fire victims in and around Sonoma County still need help from their tragic loss, even sending good thoughts works; and while your at it: Mexico City, Puerto Rico, etc etc. thank you)
Your work suggests a physical use, and many of the pieces are involved in your ritualistic performances. How do you see your objects change when they are worn and activated?
I feel like when the masks or objects are used in an actual performance or film it gives them no deeper of a meaning, but more context of how the objects or masks are used, and what my intention was when creating them, whereas the objects just on display with no back-story allows the viewer to create the story on their own. This has been making me think a lot about making masks as just show pieces, what they represent not being worn etc., almost like a skin of myself or representation of some kind of protection to the viewer that they can invent. I have heard from viewers and patrons about what the masks and objects have said to them and the stories they have told prove to be very powerful and life affirming.
Certain pieces in the show seem to have evolved from representational objects and into more abstract forms. Can you tell us about this transformation in your practice?
I’ve been working on myself a lot and with that practice comes change; I have decided to concentrate more on the growth of my practice outside of masks and protection pieces. These will not be eliminated from my body of work, but for a period of time new masks, protection pieces, and vessels will be created primarily for performances, clients, films, and photography. I feel it is important to grow with the work and I love the freedom that non-representational work gives me.
You’re planning to perform a ritual during the exhibition’s opening. What should we expect to experience?
As usual the performance is more of a crowd participatory, one-on-one experience. I will be challenging the participants to look into the past and forgive themselves or others for taking something without permission. Once again, I am inviting people to reflecting on the things that have helped them become who they are, and look at those mountains they have either climbed or are buried beneath.
Where do you see your work heading in the future? What’s in store for you in 2018?
As I continue to challenge myself and grow the works shall do the same. I have a few shows lined up in 2018, which also includes a new film that should be done in January. Waiting on some hopeful acceptances for a few residencies, and I am going to be putting a lot of work in on a solo museum show in October 2018. I have some other collaboration and projects that I need to keep under the hat at the moment, but am excited to announce them when the time is right. I want to travel a bit more, move somewhere for longer than 3 months, and see my nephew as much as possible because that blood love is real. Thanks for the questions. And enjoy your days and nights.