Luisa Rabbia

Time was the subject but also a metaphorical medium in Luisa Rabbia’s multimedia exhibition “Anywhere Out of the World.” In the entrance to the gallery one was greeted with the sound of A Raining Day (all works 2005): the continuous pounding of a heavy downpour emanating from hidden speakers above the doorway. In the next room were two drawings of sleeping figures—Silent Landscape and Winter Landscape—covered in fabrics, some patterned with stripes and others solid blue or white. Finely rendered in bright blue pencil on plain white backgrounds, they suggested topographic landscapes. Only the delicately drawn heads are visible, their lined faces implying privation or middle age. The images are human and vulnerable yet project an eternal, mythic quality.

In the middle of another room, the sculpture Sleeping Landscape seemed to be a three-dimensional version of the drawings. Here the face peeking out from under the blanket is nearly covered by the folds, its features drawn in the same blue as the patterns on the blanket. The designs were inscribed as the sculpture—made of mixed materials including papier-mâché and fabric—took shape in an organic process. Sitting Weightless is a faceless human figure perched on a shelf, or raised bench, in an otherwise empty room. Its hands are hidden in its pockets, suggesting a casual moment or pause in time that occurs repeatedly everywhere—yet is always individual and private—and then is forgotten. Evoking isolation and mystery, the barefoot, genderless figure seems to be formed completely of wrinkles of opaque fabric. Rabbia sees fabric as a barrier, a border between the body and the outside world that provides both privacy and physical protection. Softening and disintegrating with age while absorbing the energy of the wearer, fabric changes with time, recording its own narrative.

For Rabbia, drawing is likewise a record of time and emotion, a linear continuum that unfolds in the fabrication of the image and captures the moment of its making. She spent two months in a ceramic workshop making Anywhere Out of the World, a mosaic composition covering an entire wall of the gallery, forming it piece by piece and line by line as a drawing. The disembodied white head of an old man seems to float in an upside-down landscape, the bottom half a light blue sky with a dark blue body of water above. The irregular shapes and swirling formations of the tiles create the sensation of tumultuous movement.

The poetic coda to the exhibition’s contemplative blue ensemble was the video Passing Moods, a four-minute loop (accompanied by meditative music composed by Fa Ventilato) that followed the changing seasons as seen through a frame focusing on tree branches, with the moody sky as background. Various animated elements were superimposed on the film—like a moving collage—appearing and then passing away: a nest, a runaway umbrella, green and red leaves, and a pouring rain that eventually blots out the screen. Like the rest of the exhibition, it was tinged with a sadness that spoke of the precariousness, isolation, and fragility of human existence. Leaving the gallery, one was reminded by the sound of rain that time had continued to flow in nearly identical series of moments.

Cathryn Drake