Michelle Lopez is an interdisciplinary sculptor and installation artist. Her work examines collapsed political and social structures by inverting cultural tropes through her process of building. Her research and exploitation of industrial materials within her work exposes the finite and sometimes invisible boundaries of our own embedded societal constructions.
Michelle Lopez is a material manipulator, a conceptualist, a builder, who researches cultural phenomenon and its material to push it out to its Nth-degree. With that comes an inventive spirit by stretching the industrial processes of crafting consumerism in all of its many forms. She bends plywood to make body-sized wilted skateboards, mirrors glass to build smoke clouds out of silver nitrate, creates gold thrones out of lead tendril sticks. In her latest body of work, she created a “House of Card” installation that has suspended rubble and steel rope balancing a fragile scaffolding system. Sculpturally, she decided to go in reverse by making all of the work almost disappear as a reflection of our cultural moment. Other recent work involves the usage of flutists and actors (as more material) to mimic/amplify a space in order to activate phantom gestures and diffuse forms of figuration.
Early work such as her leather-covered car, Boy, riffs on of our relationship to consumer products by combining forms of Capitalism with skin-colored leather. Lopez also examines art-historical Minimalist forms, by building abject spare structures out of debris. Her crumpled aluminum and stainless-steel work, Blue Angels, exemplifies a post-9/11 technological failure while also considering the performative element of the artist’s body via sculpture. Her sound and kinetic installation, Halyard, is a further iteration of examining invisible structures of power. She looks at the phenomenon of violence through structures of silence and disappearance. Her series of silver-nitrate pours onto large-scale, UV-treated, architectural glass, Smoke Clouds capture the wisp of smoke after destruction as an elegiac sculptural form, and as a mirror to reflect the viewer’s image. Her most recent installation of an abject collapsing scaffolding system has steel rope and street rubble lifting it all up in a strange contradictory logic.
Lopez earned her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York and BA from Barnard College, Columbia University, New York. Recent solo exhibitions include: ‘House of Cards,’ Simon Preston, Gallery, 2018; ‘Halyard’, Alt, Istanbul, 2016; ‘Angels, Flags, Bangs,’ The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Connecticut, 2014; Galerie Christophe Gaillard, Paris, 2012; Simon Preston, New York, 2015, 2011 & 2009; ‘The Year We Made Contact,’ LA><ART, Los Angeles, 2008, among others. She participated in ‘Greater New York,’ PS1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York 2000; Public Art Fund, Metrotech Center, New York, 2000 and California Biennial, OCMA, Orange County, CA, 2004.
Lopez was recently a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2019, and will have a solo museum show at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Philadelphia (September 2019-May 2020).
Other recent group exhibitions include ‘You Just Fit, You and I,’ Harvard Carpenter Center for the Arts; ‘Re-Enactments,’ Museum of Contemporary Art & Design (MCAD), Manila, Philippines; ‘When You Cut into the Present, the Future Leaks Out,’ No Longer Empty, The Old Bronx Courthouse, New York, NY. ‘Temporary/Contemporary,’ Bass Museum of Art, Miami, FL, ‘A Chromatic Loss,’ Bortolami Gallery, New York, 2014.
Michelle Lopez has taught at UC Berkeley, Yale School of Art (Sculpture), SVA MFA, and now heads Sculpture & Installation in the Fine Arts Program at UPenn. Lopez is standing faculty in the Penn MFA program and based in Philadelphia.