"In The Studio With:..." is a weekly feature that takes us into the private creative spaces of emerging artists to discuss their work and career.
Adrianne Lobel is an accomplished painter and set designer who's work has been featured in more than twenty solo and group exhibitions over the last decade. Before returning to painting full time, her theatrical sets were the backdrops to of a number of important works, including the world premier of John Adams' "Nixon In China," and have earned Drama Desk and Tony nominations as well as an Obie award.
Today, she is still involved with theatre, but concentrates on her painting. She has developed a plein air practice that focuses on the suburban and rural scenes of upstate New York.
Anthony Philip Fine Art: Most of your work centers on suburban landscapes such as McMansions, strip malls, drive-throughs, etc. What is it about these subjects that captures your imagination?
Adrianne Lobel: What attracts me first to these types of locations is a feeling about American loneliness and pathos that they inspire. There is a cheeriness about them that falls flat and that breaks my heart. That is is first thing. Next, The strip malls and big box stores have a kind of stupid geometry to them that appeals to me and which touches on the relationship of flatness in space that I use in my theater designs. Also, often the color of the plaster and stucco used on the walls and the endless arcades of these places hearken back to the early Italian Renaissance painting that I love.
APFA: As you explore a subject serially through different color palettes and compositions, what do you hope to discover about that particular subject that a single work does not reveal?
AL: I work in series and in different scales. I start from a painting I did on site and produce paintings from that painting - small, medium and large ( though never the same size as the original painting). Generally, I do not change the composition much. The important thing for me is the shift in scale. The little paintings out of necessity become simplified, condensed and more intense. By the time I work up to the huge paintings, I know exactly what color should go on top of what color so there is no fooling around. The decisions have been made on the smaller scale works. Sometimes I resolve a subject with a different arrangement of the same colors. And sometimes I work from a middle sized work to produce more small scale works so it is a back and forth process. What I hope with repeating the same image again and again is to boil down the elements to a poetic reduction. What matters stays in. The rest disappears. This happens on its' own without much interference from me.
APFA: What led to your changing your focus from theatrical set design to pure painting, and how has one informed the other? Also, how is it different to work alone in the studio, rather than as part of a collaborative team?
AL: Life is long and so was my career. It is important for an artist to feel a little off balance and not so successful and full of themselves. This is the only way to grow. I was at a place where I felt I had done a lot of what I wanted to do in the theater. Painting was where I began as a kid and what led me to backstage work in the theater in the first place. I found, about a dozen years ago, that I as needing to find the painter me again.
People think that working in the theater is a collaboration where everyone has a say about everyone else's work. This is not true. A good director gives the artists he or she is working with freedom to work on their own ideas and then is able to edit and put them together to create a world. I spent plenty of time alone in my studio working on my stage designs. What is different is that once the designing is done then the work becomes more social. There are carpenters , scenic painters, and prop people to work with, other designers (in my case brilliant lighting and costume designers) and lastly, when it all comes together, stage hands, performers and the audience!
With painting you make everything yourself and hope you can get someone to look at the stuff eventually.
APFA: When we first met, I immediately noticed an affinity for Hockney's "swimming pool" paintings in your work. Can you tell us about some of the painters who have influenced you over the years and explain what you have taken from each?
AL: In fact, I used Hockney's swimming pool many years ago in a production. I do love that series. again... the straight on flatness of those paintings is very theatrical. It is not surprising that Hockney designs scenery as well.
I have had a life time of looking at art. One looks at and uses so many things when one is designing. Also, I traveled a lot and could always squeeze in a museum or two when I found myself working in Chicago, London, Paris, Amsterdam etc. It was a very rich background and I have absorbed so much that it is hard to pin point a particular influence. I have had different phases in my work. I had a Cezanne / Van Gogh / Klimt phase . I had a Feininger/ Hundergasser/early Mondrian phase. Right now I would say I am in Theibauld / Hockney / De Chirico / Hopper territory with a little Shore and Eggleston photography thrown in.
I grew up in the 60's in New York City and my first knowledge of the art world was The Grocery Store at MOMA. As I child I loved the pop artists ... Wessleman and Oldenberg especially and I consider my work to be Post Pop if that is a thing.
If you would like to know more about Adrianne and her art, please visit her website at: http://www.adriannelobel.com