Luciano Perna, an L.A. Conceptual artist, dies at 63

Luciano Perna, a Conceptual artist whose quirky sculptures and different photographs participate in with the elasticity of issue and time, typically concealing sudden autobiographical depths, died Dec. 28 in Los Angeles.

The induce was an clear heart attack, according to Darcy Huebler, his spouse of 35 many years and affiliate dean at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. He was 63.

Perna was among 90 artists involved in “Pictures of Creation: American Shots of the 1980s” organized in 1989 by the Smithsonian American Artwork Museum in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the invention of the modern day digicam. His operate was showcased in exhibitions at Los Angeles Modern Exhibitions, the Laguna Art Museum, the List Visible Artwork Middle at MIT, New York’s DIA Artwork Basis, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the ICA in London and other museums and artist-operate areas.

In the early months of the 2020 effort to control the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of sequestered lockdowns, Perna commenced to post spare, elegant however-existence pictures on social media. The pictures maximized the electronic medium’s potential as an exhibition area that is at as soon as unbiased and communal.

The spectral shots exhibit antique museum artifacts, unraveling balls of string and fragile, flowering succulents and cactuses towards velvety, quietly ominous black backgrounds. The objects show up alien and historical, fragile and established. The pictures ended up featured the adhering to slide in Artforum journal, exactly where critic Benjamin H.D. Buchloh described them as “blossoms of current confinement and despair.” Inkjet prints have been shown past 12 months in Paris at Marian Goodman Librarie.

Luciano Perna, “April 22, 2020, 6:46, Schlumbergera,” 2020, inkjet on rag paper

(Luciano Perna)

Born in Naples, Italy, on Jan. 14, 1958, to Elena Chiesa and Berardo Perna, he began to take images at 14, influenced by his father’s novice work with a now-typical Leica M3 digital camera. Youthful Perna acquired to build and print his photographs in a home darkroom.

Soon after the demise of both dad and mom in months of each and every other when he was not still 16, he moved to Caracas, Venezuela, to stay with an more mature half-brother, Claudio Perna, a Conceptual artist and geographer. He stayed for 5 yrs.

While briefly used at the Nationwide Library of Venezuela, he did archival work, which bundled providing documentation of the presidential election marketing campaign of Carlos Andrés Pérez. He also identified function in a nearby business portrait studio. Through his vocation, Perna recorded global artists in photographic portraits, some casual and other people inspired by the Dada and Surrealist digicam do the job of Man Ray.

Claudio, who died in 1997, released Luciano to the adventurous countercultural curriculum he had browse about at CalArts. Perna took the leap, enrolling at the American faculty in 1979. The archival and portrait threads initial explored in Caracas arrived alongside one another in L.A., where by he later on labored as a studio technician for Ray Eames on production of the 1989 Abrams e-book “Eames Design: Operate of the Business office of Charles and Ray Eames.”

At CalArts Perna found a sympathetic school cohort, such as such Conceptual art stalwarts as John Baldessari, Douglas Huebler (whose daughter he would marry) and Barbara Kruger, and photographers Judy Fiskin and Jo Ann Callis. He embraced classes gleaned from the feminist art motion, which experienced carved out a central put in the school’s vast-ranging curriculum. He acquired a BFA in 1984 and an MFA in 1986, equally in pictures.

The late-1960s Italian Arte Povera movement, which experienced set apart common art materials like paint, canvas, carved stone and forged metallic in favor of humble, day to day provisions normally identified close to the dwelling, was instrumental in shaping Perna’s emerging aesthetic. Usual was an version of tiny flashlight sculptures, a subject that recalled precedents by Jasper Johns and Claes Oldenburg but took a pretty diverse sort.

Alternatively than casting the object in bronze or setting up a towering monument from industrial steel, as the American Pop artists had done, he cobbled the objects together from common domestic goods: kitchen area drain plungers, light-weight bulbs, duct-taped batteries and an on-off swap built from clothespins. The thoroughly practical outcome was also a witty, unpretentious device handy in conceptually unclogging blockages of typical imagined needing to be flushed down the drain.

In other examples, a plate of spaghetti upended on a canvas could signify the fulfilling consumption of tangled linear skeins of colour in a Jackson Pollock drip painting. For a sculpture titled “Arte Povera,” a black wheelbarrow piled with chunky rocks painted gold both consecrated and commemorated manual labor in an age of post-industrial transformation.

Perna was as very likely to manner a lifesize sculpture of a motorcycle or a race car, ostensibly masculine topics, from kitchen pots and pans, dart boards, record albums and backyard barbecue grills as from the vehicles’ additional acquainted ingredient components conveniently gathered up at an standard automotive shop. A playful, homey, do-it-your self ethos was amplified.

His bike was based on a film graphic — the so-referred to as “Captain The usa chopper” ridden by Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider,” the 1969 finish-of-an-period cult common. The legendary motorcycle with an American flag gasoline tank was celebrated in a poster that adorned the bedroom of Perna’s youth in Naples. His fabricated edition showcased the popular handlebar fork, prolonged much more than a foot over and above a standard Harley-Davidson length and produced from a pair of healthcare facility crutches. The visual rhyme conjured a lifestyle of damage.

“I did not see the motion picture,” the artist explained to critic David Pagel in a 1993 Bomb magazine interview, “it was not obtainable to me. I just noticed the pictures, and I imagined what was in the film.”

The potential for photos to ignite creativeness instead than basically index actuality fueled a lot of Perna’s do the job. Humility crucial to an Arte Povera aesthetic brought any flights of utopian fantasy down to earth. Fertile cultural terrain was supplied by a lifetime lived in Naples, Caracas and Los Angeles — grand international cities also grounded in fallen Spanish colonial empires.

The layered fictions of Hollywood flicks delivered thematic grist for a 1999 solo exhibition at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Incorporated was a cherry-red Ducati bike, its hyper-futuristic, streamlined design and style a glamorous surprise tucked driving a wide horizontal plinth, painted flat black. The plinth, echoing the mysterious monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Place Odyssey” but below notably toppled on its aspect, rested atop a wheeled dolly. The ensemble awaited removing for the up coming contrived scene in an imagined film.

The artwork museum exhibition, titled “Science/Fiction: A Movie Studio Set,” was framed as a selfmade soundstage. In an Arte Povera twist, scores of everyday purple egg cartons stapled to the again wall delivered a “futuristic” spaceship inside, acceptable for daydreams arising from a kid’s playroom. With the digicam as an industrial emblem for the visual history of Modernist artwork, Perna established his do the job against a prevalent urge to fabricate idealized visions.

Fahey Klein Gallery offered Perna’s to start with business solo exhibition of images in 1988. At Thomas Solomon’s Garage a yr later on, Perna showed geometric abstract paintings produced from plastic sheeting into which metallic weights were being concealed every single function was priced by the pound.

Perna poked a wickedly droll finger in the eye of an unparalleled 1980s art-market place boom, which was location information and garnering headlines. The weightier the painting, the greater the price tag.

Solo exhibits adopted at Rosamund Felsen Gallery, also in L.A., Holly Solomon Gallery in New York, Dennis Anderson Gallery in Antwerp, Belgium, Tanja Grunert Gallery in Cologne, Germany, and quite a few many others. He was involved in much more than 50 group demonstrates in the United States and Europe. His function is held in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art the Walker Art Heart, Minneapolis the Museum of Fantastic Arts, La Chaux-des-Fonds, Switzerland and many personal collections.

10 pictures of rising and recognized artists linked with CalArts as the Los Angeles art scene emerged into worldwide prominence in the early 1980s — which includes Michael Asher, Jonathan Borofsky, Lari Pittman, Stephen Prina, David Salle and numerous many others — illustrated the catalog to the big 2006 survey exhibition “Los Angeles 1955-1985: Start of an Artwork Money” structured by Paris’ Centre Pompidou.

Memorial designs for Perna are pending.

Kenneth Proto

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