Encinitas Advocate Art

Lux artist in residence plays with materials, minds

The Lux Art Institute's latest artist-in-residence show plays with the mind through the use of textures.

As a viewer first glances at one of Rachel Mica Weiss' pieces, it's easy to mistake the material for something else. Her woven screen works often can be mistaken for paintings, for example. Her "Fold" series look like blankets or yoga mats but are actually made of concrete.

"I think material confusion is really fun," said the Brooklyn-based artist, who's staying at the Lux in Encinitas through Dec. 15 and whose art is on display through Jan. 12. "I think it really is interesting to kind of get people to think about what aesthetic cues our brains to understand what something is and kind of having a moment to rewind and re-calibrate that. That's what art should do. ... It should make you think differently."

Weiss has several styles of art on display that all integrate the idea of material confusion.

For her six woven screen works -- a style she has been creating for the last year and a half -- the artist uses a systematic and mathematical process of stringing thread together to make her akin to a "human sewing machine," as she described herself. This process creates a spine-like texture in the middle of the fibers twisting over one another, and the work comes out looking like a landscape or horizon.

She said she intends for the pieces to create portals to another place, and she enjoys the tension and play between dimension and flatness in the work.

"When you look at these from the side, they feel incredibly flat," she said. "When you approach them from the front, you see all this density and all these layers. The shadows cast on the back create this sense of depth and sort of enterability."

Weiss' show also features sculpted pieces from her "Fold" series, in which she creates concrete shapes draped over powder-coated steel to look similar to items like blankets, towels or yoga mats.

Each piece is cast from a urethane-rubber mold. Weiss mixes the concrete in buckets and adds dry and wet pigments to the underside of the work.

Because of this method, unlike her woven pieces, it's difficult for the artist to control how her work will turn out.

"There's this certain element of trusting the material and letting it do what it's going to do because I can't see it," she said.

Then, after the pieces harden and cure, she bends them into various shapes.

Weiss is also working on a piece for her Lux show in which she hangs pieces of cable from the ceiling with rods. The work is similar to a piece she created for Airbnb's headquarters in Seattle, but on a smaller scale.

She models the Lux piece after a topographical map of the local San Diego terrain and expects to finish it before her residency ends Dec. 15.

"I'm taking this chunk of mountain and bringing it inside," she explained.

Weiss said she is appreciative of the unique connection to her craft that she can foster at the Lux.

Especially after a busy year with several solo shows and commissioned pieces, Weiss said it's nice to have some time for reflection.

"Oftentimes, I think in busy periods you're working toward deadlines and you don't necessarily have the time that you would want to sit back and really look at something and understand it," she said. "This time is really about reflecting on all of that."

For more information about the artist, visit www.rachelmicaweiss.com. To learn more about her show at the Lux, visit www.luxartinstitute.org.

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