Shana Mabari is a Los Angeles-based artist exploring the intersections of art, science and technology. Her installations and environments investigate ways in which worldly stimuli and phenomena are absorbed and processed through sensory and visual perception. She orchestrates light, reflection, color contrast and geometry to play with and expand the reality and experience of physical space.
Mabari’s inspirations include James Turrell’s use of the human visual system as a medium, design scientist Buckminster Fuller’s visionary projects, and groundbreaking research by world-renowned experts in the vision sciences at Caltech in Pasadena and the Institute of Neuroinformatics in Zurich, Switzerland (where she has collaborated with psychophysicist Shinsuke Shimojo and neuromorphic engineer Tobias Delbruck, respectively). Mabari is part of the continuum of the Light and Space movement that originated in California in the 1960s, extending its legacy, reach and influence into the 21st century.
Her current public art project, Illumetric, a triptych of massive diamond-, cube- and rectangle-shaped acrylic sculptures for the City of West Hollywood’s Art on the Outside public art program, was installed on the median of Santa Monica Boulevard at Holloway Drive in July 2014 with a one-year duration. The city has announced that the project will be continued through the end of 2015.
Mabari worked extensively with legendary Southern California fabricator Jack Brogan on the preliminary fabrication and design concepts for the pieces. Constructed with colored acrylic panels, Illumetric’s sculptures interact with the ephemeral qualities of daylight and feature internal LED illumination for nighttime display, emphasizing light as an intangible but physical and communal presence at any hour.
Congratulations on your West Hollywood installation being extended through 2015. How did Art on the Outside come about?
Thank you. I am very excited about Illumetric’s tenure on the median of Santa Monica Boulevard being extended an additional six months. The three sculptures have become a landmark on the 8400 block and Holloway triangle area, and it’s exciting to observe the reactions and relationships they have created — as a group and individually — with passersby on foot, commuters and the overall community.
I have known about the city of West Hollywood’s Art on the Outside program for quite some time and have always found the works selected for it to be very
impactful. Illumetric was presented to the city of West Hollywood’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Committee in January 2013, and in June 2013 they officially accepted the project, and a contract was signed. I worked closely with Andrew Campbell, arts administrator for the city of West Hollywood, on moving the project forward. I am thankful to Andrew, the committee, and the city for backing such a huge-scale undertaking. As a strong advocate of public art, I believe that giving back to the community is very important.
How long did this sculpture take to assemble? And why did you want to display it in West Hollywood?
The entire assembling and installation of Illumetric took about one year. I worked extensively with legendary Southern California fabricator Jack Brogan on the preliminary fabrication and design. Preparing the work was a long and complex collaborative process. Structural engineers, electrical engineers, Ledtronics (which supplied the LED lights), fabricator and electricians all had to work together in harmony as the sculptures went through multiple phases. The experience of preparing for and imagining how these pieces would live on the median in scale, color and form has been incredible. I find each sculpture is really two individual pieces with a daytime and nighttime personality. They change as their environment around them fluctuates with the flow of traffic, time of day, weather conditions and other factors. This is the exceptional and unique quality of public art.
I was interested in exhibiting Illumetric in West Hollywood because I wanted to be part of, and to support and celebrate its diverse and forward-thinking community. Through the Art on the Outside program, the city of West Hollywood has created an exceptional two-square-mile public urban gallery. I am honored to be included in that vision. Also, I grew up in the Fairfax District very close to the installation site, and it’s a special honor to have the sculptures find a home on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Zaha Hadid said “light is the greatest luxury.” Since light plays such an integral part in your work, how do you orchestrate the right light when you are creating a piece?
Zaha Hadid is correct, light is the greatest luxury, and it plays an integral role in my work. In Southern California, light is used very differently than in other places and is a medium in and of itself. I am profoundly inspired by the Light and Space movement; it deeply influences my practice, through color, materials, light, scale and process.
When working on a new project, I always consider how both natural and artificial light will be integrated, especially when working on exterior pieces. Choosing the LED lighting for the three Illumetric pieces was a fascinating journey of discovery for me. It’s like a recipe, understanding how the different elements will affect one another. Each sculpture has such a distinct and different feel and personality, modulated by a subtle metamorphosis throughout the day as the colors shift and change. The daytime natural light allows the richness and saturation of the blue, red and yellow acrylic material to glow fiercely, while the nighttime internal LED illumination allows for a more sensual glow, creating a monumental presence against the dark evening backdrop.
What is your next big project? Can you discuss any upcoming exhibits?
I am very excited to have works on ongoing display at Imago Galleries in Palm Desert and to be featured at FP Contemporary in Culver City this spring. Looking ahead, I am thrilled to be part of the upcoming year-end group exhibition at The Lancaster Museum of Art and History. MO AH’s museum manager and curator Andi Campognone invited me to show new light-based work that will be installed on the rooftop terrace. The exhibit opens Dec. 5 and runs through late January, 2016. MO AH is leading the Antelope Valley’s transformation as an emerging arts scene, and it’s great to be involved in the early stages of its development.