The Brooklyn Rail – January 2nd, 2014
Fran Siegel Plans and Interruptions at Lesley Heller Workspace | October 18 – December 1, 2013
by Alexander Shulan
Using an assortment of Arte Povera type materials, Los Angeles based artist Fran Siegel constructs dense, eclectic visualizations of the history and demographic composition of different urban environments through the media of drawing and collage. Her exhibition, Plans and Interruptions, at Lesley Heller Workspace consists of a series of layered paper works that weave together topography, narrative, and images of architecture into large indiscrete assemblages reflect the unfettered development of the cities they portray.
The pieces are an interesting counterpoint to many of the prosaic demographic visualizations that now are a mainstay of cable news election coverage and online poll-aggregation. Siegel looks at urban spaces in a tried modernist mode; with a clear debt to Guy Debord’s development of psychogeography, an approach to urban mapping that incorporated subjective perspective. Much like Debord, she treats the urban plans of cities like Los Angeles and Genoa as records of human exploration and invention. “Navigation” (2010-11) sets a cutout of a classical sailing ship against images of the ocean and a vertical overview of the port of Genoa. It uses tracings of the ship’s directional markings as a kind of figurative boundary for the city’s walls. Constructed from fragile, common materials—colored pencil, blue ink, and folded and cut paper— the precarious construction of “Navigation” perhaps mirrors Genoa’s agitated ancient history—its constant changing of hands and persistent civil discord.
“Overland” (2013) presents the Los Angeles horizon on cuttings of paper and cyanotype prints, and is overlaid with an intricate hard-edged pencil design that suggests plot-points on an architectural model or a fractal visualization. A more immediately recognizable cityscape than that portrayed in “Navigation,” its intricate construction nonetheless suggests the organic and haphazard expansion of Los Angeles’ urban sprawl. Los Angeles’ skyline collapses into a fragmented mosaic of blue and white paper that resembles a cubist abstraction. (For complete review, click here.)