Nicola López by Trevor Paglen

BOMB 100 Summer 2007
100 Summer 2007

Discover MFA Programs in Art and Writing

Lopez 03

Strange Skies I, 2005, woodblock, silkscreen, and intaglio on paper, with mylar collage, 60 x 40 inches.

In the past hundred years or so, human activity has become the dominant geologic force on the planet. Large-scale enterprises such as dams, mining, urban development, and agriculture have done more to sculpt the surface of the earth than “natural” geomorphic processes such as erosion, plate tectonics, and glaciation. Earth scientists like Peter Haff at Duke University have argued that the earth has entered an “Anthropic” period, and that to understand the geologic forces at work in the contemporary age, earth scientists might learn something about economics, finance, land-use policy, and civil engineering, because these discourses actually have geologic implications. Enter here the work of Nicola López.

Lopez 04

Twister, 2004, woodblock, silkscreen, and intaglio on paper, with mylar collage, 60 x 40 inches.

In drawings, prints, installations, and collages, López addresses the excesses of the Anthropic period. Abandoned urban environments appear in a state of decay, or perhaps left half-finished. Architectural forms lie atop one another as if forged together by the creative destruction of plate tectonics rather than the rational hand of an urban planner. In Excerpts from the Flood I, cylindrical buildings spew greenish-blue water in a swirl around a pile of empty urban architecture. In Monument II: Intaglio, the broken leftover of an elevated urban highway towers like a latter-day Colossus of Rhodes above the remains of an urban landscape. López’s collapsing built environments suggest the fact that someday, all of human history will be encapsulated in a few intriguing layers of rock strata—a Burgess Shale of human history unsentimentally fossilized in the earth’s recesses.

Lopez 05

Unnatural Disasters: The Flood (detail), 2006, woodblock on mylar, 12 x 14 x 5’ .

But this is not to say that López’s work is either dystopian or pessimistic. Instead, its tone is of cool resignation. In her series of “unnatural disasters,” the mangled skeletons of human infrastructures point out the oft-ignored dialectics of human production and the natural world. Indeed, as López shows, there can be no such thing as a “natural disaster,” because the concept of disaster is itself hopelessly anthropocentric.

Lopez 02

Mis-communicated, 2006, ink and graphite on paper, 55 x 45”.

López’s images remind me of a comment made by Kurt Cuffey, a leading glaciologist and global-warming researcher based at UC Berkeley, during a series of interviews I conducted with him a couple of years ago. He said that from a geologic perspective, the history of the earth is ultimately indifferent to the mass extinctions, global warmings, ozone holes, and “natural disasters” of the human era. The notion of deep time, Cuffey told me, brought him a degree of solace even as his research showed humankind quickly creating the conditions of its own destruction. In López’s images, as curious as it might sound, I find a similar sense of solace.

Lopez 01

Bitter Clouds, 2005, ink, gouache, and graphite on paper, 43 x 35”.

Trevor Paglen is an artist, writer, and experimental geographer working out of the Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley.

Vargas-Suarez Universal by Rocío Aranda-Alvarado
Vargas Suarez Universal 02 Bomb 090
Related
Mr. Vladimir Putin’s Photo with Women by Deb Sokolow
Sokolow Page1 Ab Edit

An embarrassing incident at the Kremlin (from 2015? was it 2016?): in which women invited to an International Woman’s Day photo with Mr. Vladimir Putin arrive in high heels, much to the fear of Mr. Putin’s staff who are there to witness several tall women towering over the Russian Federation president.

Portfolio: Tuning by Torkwase Dyson
Td 0001 Copy

These drawings are from a series of 210 on view at the Graham Foundation in Chicago as part of Torkwase Dyson and the Wynter-Wells School through July 28, 2018. 

An Urban Palimpsest: Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City by Thomas Devaney
Philadelphia1

Making urban history visible. 

Originally published in

BOMB 100, Summer 2007

Featuring interviews with Chuck Close, Kara Walker, Mamma Andersson, Howard Norman, Peter Nadas, Bela Tarr, Benedict Mason, and Kate Valk.

Read the issue
100 Summer 2007