Mara De Luca: Driving Sunset


March 12 - April 16, 2016

Opening Reception: March 12, 6-8pm 

Exhibition Program: Saturday, March 26, 2pm
Mara De Luca in conversation with writer and curator Kristine McKenna 
To watch a video with highlights from the conversation, click here.  

(Los Angeles) - Edward Cella Art & Architecture is pleased to present Driving Sunset, the gallery's first solo exhibition of new works by Los Angeles-based painter Mara De Luca. An MFA graduate of CalArts, De Luca explores the conceptual and expressive potential of process-driven abstract painting. Her works are informed by her study and re-appropriation of art historical conventions, her visual interpretation of literary sources, and the recurring visual tropes of contemporary high-end fashion advertising. Inspired by Los Angeles' stark contrasts, a place where beautiful natural landscapes coexist alongside endless freeways and countless billboards, De Luca reveals a depth in the superficiality of surface, and an emotive complexity in formal concision. 

The exhibition title, Driving Sunset, is a direct reference to Joan Didion's novel Play it as it Lays, in which its protagonist, Maria, compulsively drives the freeways of Southern California in search of meditative psychological respite. Didion's visually evocative prose is laconic and succinct, a stylistic shortness she uses to navigate intense themes of psychological trauma and displacement. De Luca strives to capture the terse stylistic understatement of Didion's lan-guage, and the unexpected intensity of its detachment, through her stylized sublime. By combining the formal language and technique of late modernist painting with the sensationalized language of fashion advertising, De Luca harnesses a similar combination of opposites. An expressive latency lurks beneath the seeming minimalism of her surfaces. 

Mara De Luca's unique painting technique combines mixed-media elements, like the use of  smooth collaged fabric and elegant metal framing "accessories,"with familiar modernist devices such as hard-edging, action painting, and pouring. Her works begin with a raw unprimed canvas which is then saturated with multiple interacting pours of thin acrylic paint and fabric overlays. The resulting push and pull between expanses of monochromatic surface and areas of gradient, atmospheric depth creates an ambiguous suspension of the pictorial space. De Luca has incorporated customized metal components into the structural makeup of these new paintings; part sculptural add-on and part framing device, the additions offset the paintings with clean linear extremities that extend into real space. 

Her new works strike a deliberate balance between the precision of geometric abstraction and the moody, emotive synthetic otherworldliness of fashion advertising. In Driving Sunset, De Luca restrains her surfaces with the superimposition of this formal control, much like the sublimation Didion's heroine finds in cultivated emptiness. By borrowing digital imaging palettes and atmospheric visual effects from the graphic advertising of designers like Dior, Cedric Charlier and Marc Jacobs, De Luca couples contemporary, commercial visual culture with the inherited formal tenets of modernism. 

The exhibition will include four large abstract paintings and two medium sized works, titled, in keeping with Didion's theme of LA's restless calm, after Los Angeles freeway exits like Indio or Chino Montclair. Alongside these abstract works are five small representational pieces, direct, though romanticized, interpretations of the actual fashion advertisements that have inspired the larger abstractions. De Luca's singular sublime, much like Didion's, draws from a heavy vacancy and a difficult ease. Her love of visual and stylistic contradiction, and her tendency to find depth in aesthetic economy, informs this body of simultaneously revelatory and expertly disguised works. 
Mara De Luca is a Los Angeles-based artist who received a Master of Fine Arts from California Institute of the Arts and a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University. De Luca has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA, Luis De Jesus, Los Angeles, CA, and Quint Contemporary Art, La Jolla, CA. She has had recent group exhibitions at OTIS Ben Maltz Gallery, Los Angeles, CA and the Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA, with fair presentations at EXPO Chicago, PULSE Miami, and FOG, San Francisco, CA.