Critics’ Picks

Elena Manferdini, Forms and Ground III, 2015, ink-jet print on paper, 19 x 13".

Elena Manferdini, Forms and Ground III, 2015, ink-jet print on paper, 19 x 13".

Los Angeles

Elena Manferdini

801 E 7th Street Suite 103
January 30–March 26, 2016

As an architect, Elena Manferdini works at the intersection of theoretical design and the decorative arts. Her architecture frequently takes the form of installations, or vice versa, and is scaled to human experience, especially when it operates at the level of a lobby or facade. Manferdini’s aesthetic is also suited to prints and textiles, owing in part to the ebullient range of pastel colors she employs—a quality that distinguishes her in a field that tends to be relentlessly severe and sleek. Her paper works, then, are not preparatory studies for building designs but a critical dimension of her overall project.

An exhibition of recent prints on paper and powder-coated aluminum, “Building Portraits” reads like an essay in composition, from a restrained series mostly in black and white to frenetic designs spanning the rainbow. Manferdini emphasizes the grid in her 2015 series “Building the Picture,” although these glitchy configurations are unstable at best—snapshots of a system dissolving and rearranging itself. Three pieces titled “Forms and Ground,” 2015–16, convey the complexity of infrastructure as well as the fragility of lace. A handful of sculptural works in the show rendered in both paper and metal demonstrate the integrity of the artist’s work across 2-D and 3-D formats, which is not something that can ever be assumed of an architect. Perhaps the tightest compositions in the show, the “Building Portraits” prints from 2016 share a title with a design she entered in a competition for the facade of a parking facility in St. Petersburg, Florida. Manferdini won the contest, and though not yet built, the completed project will be an apt extension of her work. This artist captures the invisible combustion engine inside the city, the patterns and motion underneath the built environment.