Like gaunt, filmy stalactites, bunches of cutout prints depicting heavy-duty electrical cable issue from pipes and vents along the heating ducts that cling to the ceiling. Not simply incorporating and responding to the given elements of the gallery’s architecture, the printed images of urban sundries, cityscape fragments, and techno-junk that lurk throughout Nicola López’s sprawling installation entitled Vertigo hemorrhage from the ceiling and collect in puddles on the floor, blanketing the walls as well like slimy post-industrial moss. Among the generic electrical bric-a-brac woven into the strands of wiring, there are also prints of satellite dishes and truck tires. On the walls, dense groups of images ranging from steel towers and high-rise office buildings to hillside shanties nearly engulf the big chunky truck tires like quicksand. Prominently sited by the gallery’s entrance is a strange bulbous mass of technology wrapped in thick cables. Like some mechanized cognate of Gulliver, this imminent, unstable entity has been cautiously tied down. The product of the artist’s wary yet meticulous design, Vertigo amounts to an elaborate mural depicting an ineluctable and defiling urbanization, within which is couched a sensitive affinity for graphic representation.
López’s installation constructs a sober vision of a conflicted visual field. There is an incredible material density achieved by the various yet repetitive vocabulary of prints arranged and presented in innumerable permutations across the walls. Symbols of habitation, transport and communication—the underpinnings of urban life—are so thoroughly compressed that they dissolve into an anonymous schematic residue. The artist has used dozens of map tacks to keep the precarious structure intact, an allusion to cartography that resurfaces more explicitly in her drawings. However many intricacies there are to relish in the piece, however appealing the benign cartoons, the promise of urban life expected from consolidation and centralization appears destabilized and uncertain. Metallic bronze and burnt orange clouds rise from cooling towers and smoke stacks; the silhouettes of oil derricks and pools of spilled black oil coagulate on the flooded cityscape in “Strange Skies,” another mixed-media collage tacked to the rear wall of the gallery. Again, the land is ravaged. Birds do not fly here; instead fighter jets seize the air, swooping like buzzards over the expanse.
The five illustrations accompanying the installation are born out of a methodology where arrangements and concentrations of imagery are subjected to optical tropes and fluctuations in orientation. What results is a graphic reflection of the jarring experience of encountering urban space. Looping highway interchanges, city grids, and meandering railroad tracks contort and deform under a tornado of unseen forces. Spurning their regulatory thrust, the artist co-opts these structures into her game. They become the architectonics of a tear in space; a singularity towards which are inevitably drawn smoking factories, stacks of television sets, satellite dishes, and radio towers.
Among these fantastically apocalyptic visions, entrenched contemporary detritus, and juxtapositions of urban banality, there are moments of elusive truth as well. Though presumably distilled from experiencing urban spaces directly, the imagery favors the generic through reductive design, appearing more metaphorical than objective. In spite of this tendency towards stock depiction, a rather accurate glimpse at the precarious networks of communication still rises from the absurdly jumbled mess of cables and microwave dishes. And when considering on what shaky ground our precious lines of telecommunication rest, this delicate and elusive message seems all the more clear and authentic.