Loredana Sperini’s recent show “Tra di Noi” (Between Us), at Freymond-Guth’s new space in the Löwenbräu complex, continued her explorations with contrasting materials. Sperini, who lives in Zurich, was initially trained in fiber arts and has a strong background in craft. Since she began making artwork in the early 2000s, she has used a multitude of mediums (wax, wood, mirrors, fabric, found porcelain) in disparate forms (sculpture, installation, painting, drawing). Here, as in the past, she revealed tensions between the natural and manufactured worlds through careful juxtapositions.
Sperini’s current formal interest is the crystal, and crystalline attributes could be seen in the 10 mixed-medium paintings, two floor sculptures and one wall installation on view. All are untitled and were made specifically for the exhibition. Although crystals are often ridiculed as a new-age accessory—they are historically associated with healing and spirituality, black magic and superhuman abilities—the beauty of their structure is undeniable. The crystal’s allure is in large part due to its geometric regularity and its ability to reflect and refract light. Our admiration for the strength and brilliance of these naturally occurring forms has inspired efforts to artificially fashion them for hundreds of years. And yet Sperini’s focus is on fragility, rather than the durability that we associate with gems. In her small paintings made of wax on cast-cement panels, the delicacy of the compositions themselves is emphasized. The artist fills cracks that she creates in the cement with layer upon layer of different-colored wax, sculpting and shaping angles and lines to evoke facets and light effects. The translucence of the wax layers establishes a visual allusion to the refraction of light in crystals, and the result is mesmerizing.
Sperini plays with the ambivalence that the crystal elicits, demonstrating its beauty but also alluding to the connotations it has in contemporary culture. For example, a 22-inch-tall wax and cement sculpture resembles a large chunk of an amethyst geode, the type one might find in a new-age bookstore. One side is gray and rocklike, while the other features slanted planes of purple wax. A wax arm—an element that directly links this work to Loredana’s previous wax sculptures of body parts—hangs under a vertex, as if it had grown there. Contained within the cupped hand is a disembodied pair of human lips. The sculpture highlights the human body’s uncertain placement in the world.
In an approximately 7-foot-high floor piece, a black polygon frame is attached to a black mirrored glass quadrilateral. Reflections of the gallery in the angled glass point to the fractured and multiplied reality implied by the many faces of a crystal. While Sperini’s works, taken together, suggest a battle for control over our environment through their combination of man-made and natural materials, what stands out most is her sensitivity to beauty, respect for craft and love of form, qualities that often seem absent in contemporary practices.
Loredana Sperini: Untitled, 2012, wax and cement, 117⁄8 by 83⁄8 by 17⁄8 inches; at Freymond-Guth.