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January 18, 2012

Lucia Koch at Lucía de la Puente, Lima

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Laurens Dhaenens

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Using diverse strategies and materials, spanning from the installation of light filters and translucent materials to the use of photography, Brazilian artist Lucia Koch critically dissects the issues of space. Introducing subtle alternations in private and public spaces, she questions what constitutes a space, how we create it, and how we live within it. Working in situ, the artist departs from the particularity of a location to reshape its experience and open up new perspectives on its structures and functions. However, in her site-specific interventions the original space always remains legible. Koch modifies a space without erasing its singularity. As such, her work simultaneously locates the viewer both inside and outside a space—in an ambiguous position, which generates a critical attitude toward architecture and its effects.
Lucia Koch’s exhibition at Lucía de la Puente, Un Tour, was centered around/on a wall. Characterized by its irregular curved form, its undulating surface, and its brown color, the wall articulated the antithesis to the rational architecture of the gallery. Diagonally installed, it distorted the spatial unity of the room and obliged the visitors to make ‘un tour’ in what is normally an open, surveyable space. By altering the gallery space and choreographing the visitors’ movement, Koch’s exhibition articulated a critical exploration of the significance of the gallery as a physical space and as a defining context.
Koch’s wall created two spaces, both marked by the conflict between the geometric architecture of the gallery and the organic design of the wall. In the first space the gallery context disappeared in favor of the physical space. The wall did not appear as an object but as an element emphasizing the spatial structure of the gallery. In the second space, however, the gallery context prevailed due to the presence of a photograph of the interior of a coffee package, enlarged to an architectural scale (Café extra-forte, 2011). The wall no longer appeared as a structural element; instead, it appeared as a sculpture, reflecting the qualities of borders, separations, and divisions—or what could be called the aesthetics of walls. Consequently, instead of simply contrasting ‘the white cube,’ the wall created two dialoguing rooms, which both, in turn, challenged the experience of the gallery with the presence and absence of objects.
If the wall altered the space structurally, the photograph Café extra-forte transformed it illusorily. Yet both evoked the expansion of space beyond the visual and physical borders surrounding us. The wall was perforated but not transparent; thus it incorporated the presence of the other side without making it visually accessible. Similarly, the photograph virtually expanded the room only to impose yet another border. Through this process of creating and denying spaces, Lucia Koch emphasizes the surface of walls as an element of communication between the inside and the outside, the internal and the external—a motive that also returns in her photographic series Cono Norte (2011).
Café extra-forte prefaced the four photographs exhibited in the last room of the gallery. Produced during the artist’s travels through el Cono Norte, the northern district of Lima, this series reflects her impressions of the regional architecture. Each photo exposes the interior of a box, marked by cuts, and in some cases, colors. Parallel to her series of Amostras de Arquitetura, they represent specific architectural spaces on a miniature scale. Whereas most of the photos only display basic interiors, such as Los Olivos, 2011, others have more elaborate designs, such as San Martin de Porres, 2011. Through their differences, the photographs demonstrate the heterogeneity of the architecture of the region. Heavily influenced by a massive rural urban migration and a decade of intense economic activity, el Cono Norte is marked by a persistent conflict between center and the periphery, wealth and poverty. As one of the most populated areas of Peru, its architectural landscape is in a state of flux. Koch expresses the transitoriness inherent to this situation with the use of cardboard boxes. In the photograph San Martin de Porres, 2011, this material yields a beautiful confrontation with the elegant design, making explicit the coexistence of divergent realities within this zone.
Although Lucia Koch’s work incessantly suggests the endless expansion of space, it stops short of actually showing what lies beyond the sphere of the interior. Only vague impressions of the outside penetrate the cut out windows in the Cono Norte series. Nonetheless, far from recovering the interior at the expense of the exterior, Koch focuses on the borders and transitions between the inside and the outside through her ongoing interest in windows, walls, and other visual filters. Empty and thus reduced to their structure, the interiors render a direct confrontation with spatial limitations that continuously surround us all. Going further still, each one being unique, they also represent intimate personal spaces which, uncovered, expose barriers between you and the other.
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