Artist Bosco Sodi’s “Malpaís”

With studios in Oaxaca, Brooklyn and Berlin, the celebrated artist pops-up for his first solo show in Los Angeles

Inhabiting a building that was recently a boutique and is now a temporary exhibition space, Bosco Sodi’s work transforms the light-filled space into an otherworldly place. Greeting us at the door, Sodi looks around at the organic forms as if seeing old friends in a new light. His works in “Malpaís” reflect more than six years of color exploration, material experiments, and glimpses of his future visions.

Generally, Sodi exhibits monochromatic palettes. This time, with more than 30 works, he has left the installation planning completely up to curator Matthew Schum. In the center, a tall sculpture from Sodi’s Bronx Museum series inspired by Hurricane Sandy, anchors the pebble-filled courtyard with glazed lava rocks. This grouping, now bathed in warm Southern California sunshine, sets an almost eerie tone during the current catastrophic flooding in Louisiana.

Sodi walks though the exhibit noticing a green glittery circle canvas hung next to red rectangle one. Along the way he shares thoughts on the successes and mishaps that happen when he is creating these natural and supernatural forms. His laborious process of layering pigments and sawdust allows for spills and accidents to make something new and surprising. Glazed rocks and ceramic pieces are also treated in ways to allow their organic forms to shine through. We spoke with Sodi about material, process, and affinity for mystery.

This temporary gallery is on Robertson Boulevard, nestled among designer apparel and home design boutiques. How did this become the setting for your Los Angeles show?

I was talking with Paul Kasmin, Brandon Davis and Jose Mestre about doing a pop-up show in LA. I asked them to hire Matthew Schum as the curator, to make a small survey of my work from different time frames to put together the show as if it was at a museum. I was surprised when I first saw this space. For me, the juxtaposition of the works is interesting. I have never seen the red painting next to a silver painting. They have been stored in the studio. It looks like a house and for me [it is] an encounter with pieces I have not seen in a long time.

I go to the studio every day and check them, like a doctor doing rounds

The cracks and craters in the gray piece are very deep. You have talked about layering material and stopping when the first crack forms. How do you know when to stop?

I go to the studio every day and check them, like a doctor doing rounds. When I see a crack just begin to form, I stop. It’s like when you go to a laboratory and check the experiments. It takes about two months for them to stop cracking and changing. That piece is from 2010. The newest one in the show is this black and white one.

What is the process for the ceramic pieces and rocks that have a glaze surface?

The glaze is done in another place. We take them out from my studio in Mexico and send them 10 hours away to Cerámica Suro in Guadalajara. We give them a coat of transparent glaze at 1,200 degrees. Then we give them a coat of real gold glaze at 680 degrees.

As you look at all of these pieces being exhibited together, do you feel you are moving toward more pigment and color or less?

Less pigment and color. The latest piece is black and white. I want to begin and start researching mixing more colors in one painting.

How do you approach that idea after working in single color field pieces for so long?

It’s difficult. At Casa Wabi I made two of the black and white paintings and I could not get it right. I had to destroy them. They were not functioning. The one in this show works.

In a painting with black and white, how do you approach the space where the colors meet and if they mix?

It is in a very organic way. As you can see here the colors mixed themselves. It was not on purpose. All of my processes are about the accident and not having control. I let it go and I see what I did. This mixed when I was carrying the material and parts dropped out.

In what ways do your sculptures and canvases relate to each other?

For me they have the same essence and that’s why they work together. The philosophy and the soul of the work, they have such a big connection even though they are different.

The glitter seems new and surprising for you. Where did that idea come from?

It came from accident. It is a pigment from when I was in Japan that I bought for a white painting. I had a silver and a white painting next to each other. When I was carrying the pigment, it fell and became green in a chemical reaction with the silver one. So when I was preparing the show with the gold rocks and silver paintings I wanted to give this feeling of a mine or a cave that you go into and find these amazing gold rocks, shining. That was when I began to use it.

Your studio space in Puerto Escondido at Casa Wabi was designed by Tadao Ando. How has the community and foundation been developing there?

It is our second year operating. It has been a big success with more than 80 artists. And 5,000 people from the local communities. We have done shows with José Dávila, Hector Zamora, and Daniel Buren and now with Michel François and Harold Ancart. It has been quite busy. I am there in August, December, and during the spring. I try to go once every two months to look at the studio and work there. And to spend time with the artists who are there.

Bosco Sodi: Malpaís is on view at 143 North Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles until 8 October.

Images courtesy of Julie Wolfson