The signature “Fire-Flowers” by Los Angeles-based Spencer Mar Guilburt act as checkpoints throughout the city. Their inherent fluidity and motion transform the exterior of any wall, building, or canvas. They have become like a fingerprint, an indelible and unmistakable mark confirming evidence that the artist was once here and has since traveled to a new destination that we must find. If “X” marks the spot then [ SPACE ] an inaugural two-story gallery presented by BMW is the latest destination for Guilburt. The interior is effortlessly sophisticated- an incubator of dreams and the vehicles that chase them fueled by the artistic vision of the artist. From the moment we set foot inside [SPACE ] there is visceral energy, accentuated by a G82 M4 Competition Convertible in a signature Portimao Blue Metallic that dares to accelerate past the glass doors. With an aggressive grill large enough to swallow the road ahead, it feels like its engine is already firing on all cylinders. A vehicle so meticulously crafted resists emitting a simple trail of exhaust. The connection between the artist and the vehicle is immediately established as a wall sculpture of “Fire-Flowers” emerges, crafted in a glossy black metal blooming from the corner of the wall and extending outward. Their lines reach toward the LED “M” logo which not only stands for the supercharged BMW models on display but is evidence that Mar is present.
“This Too Shall Last,” a twist on the age-old adage, “This Too Shall Pass,” is a solo exhibition of eleven new paintings created over the course of two years. As part of his art direction, Guilburt infused LED “Fire-Flowers” that delicately float overhead and act like dream catchers as we navigate around cars and gravitate toward paintings. A small grouping called “Big Dreams” is suspended above a Motorrad Bike on the first floor and a large-scale installation illuminates the path upstairs to discover works that the artist refers to as “meditations.”
Emerging from a year characterized by uncertainty, a sense of permanence is a welcome change. The vision of the exhibition is guided by resilience, optimism, and a willingness to listen to the paint. The presentation of works is a progression of familiar style accentuated with new techniques and explorations with unexpected materials.
What was the genesis of “This Too Shall Last?”
I felt like that was the most human thing to do- take our reliance and optimism and then put that into painting. I made meditations. I made paintings that made me feel some type of way until I felt like I understood the question a little better. Not where I got the answers but rather I understood what I was asking clearer and that way I could get more directed questions about the universe.
The paintings are connected by a border of a gestural checkerboard. The pattern feels familiar as it alludes to past works and reflects the checkered flag that signals the start of a race. The fluidity of the checkerboard becomes looser as it expands to the edges of the canvas, the fire-flowers accelerate and their force causes the pictorial plane to defy a linear path. Does the repetition of the pattern help contain the energy of each work?
I use that as a way of representing the noise of today. This is the minutiae of the noise of being alive today and then this mass of color is you trying to organize the energy and the thoughts. Keeping it together [is a means of] trying to figure out who you are amongst the noise.
In many of your murals, the “Fire-Flowers” has a smooth and controlled surface. In “This Too Shall Last,” they have a distinctively raw and visceral dimensionality. Do you find that the shape of the “Fire-Flower” prompts the start of a new painting and helps to trigger a dialogue between you and the surface?
It’s the thing I do to help get into a meditative state and the flow comes through me. What I’m trying to understand comes out as opposed to what my conscious brain wants to think about today and they are meant to elicit a feeling from me so that I can then understand myself better. So that’s why I called them “meditations,” and some of them are called “ascension” and “convergence.” It was starting from this process of the work really needing to be done inside of us. Once you start to do that you start to get ok with sitting with yourself and being quiet.
The presence of a thicker black outline gives a sense of repetition as though the “Fire-Flowers” were indeed a source of meditation. There is also great intention assigned to the form as the marks are carefully constructed and guide the eye around the composition. Did the gestures influence the process?
I used oil sticks which took forever to dry. That was another thing- I normally want to do a rapid painting. I want to paint it dry and paint more. With this, it was learning to make sure what I painted was all the way right because it’s going to take a long time to dry so you can’t add anything, so it’s this new slower way of painting.
The weight of the material helps to feel the gravity of emotion. As we move through [SPACE] and stand before “MEDIATION IV (WATER),” it feels as though we are being transported back to the origins of earlier work. The piece is also unique as it’s the only circular panel and harkens to the BMW emblem, reflecting your artistic direction within the space.
I think that’s a good way of putting it [because it] helps you feel the real emotions behind it. [The painting began] as a very chaotic feeling and as it was finished it became very relaxing and calming because as you said, I’m not doing them to work through something and when it’s finished it shouldn’t feel like a representation of the feeling but rather something that was derived from a time. You’re looking at a time. You’re looking at an uncomfortable time. You’re looking at a time when maybe someone didn’t want to do this or maybe they wanted to do something else but they did this because this is what they could do. Like my dad always says, “do what you can as a creative.” This painting became [a gesture of] “do what you can when you can” and the sum of your actions will become something in time and two years later this painting exists. [The question becomes] “how do you paint the feeling of having so much anxiety about something that all you want is an answer?” Originally it was with the [Woolsey] fires and not knowing if my parent’s house had burned down or not. It definitely becomes something where it’s very human to have that feeling of “I don’t want to feel like this right now, I want this feeling to go away, I want to know what’s happening and I don’t want to feel so up in the air.” Pick something that you are ok becoming because if you do these things repeatedly that’s who you are.
As you said the paintings are a reflection of time and ask that you show up each day despite any discomfort.
The only way the universe knows you’re serious is if you do it. Everything can go away but you still have the ability to face yourself and to do it every day not because you have to but because you need to and because that’s who you are.
“ASCENSION I (DREAMS)” introduces a new element of the vertical lines that creates an additional visual plane as the rest of the painting continues in a rotating motion.
This is the noise (gesturing to the outer edges of the painting) and then the shapes are always you and your memories. The white is now trying to keep your dreams in line while the noise of the world and the minutiae of being is the thing that you have to worry about. They are all precariously floating next to each other and some are perfectly straight. But we’re organizing our dreams in a manner that seems like at least they’re going together. You start from the chaos and you start to organize it a little bit, and this is the most organized I felt I could get while keeping the chaos everywhere else.
The straight lines feel similar to a method of counting or keeping a tally. The verticality not only introduces a new texture and material but engages in a dialogue with memories.
The oil sticks have such hard edges that it doesn’t blend as well and casts a shadow in your life and it’s so big that it literally exists on its own plane. So maybe instead of doing brushstrokes, it becomes gestural pieces of cardboard, and then as the light changes and the sun changes your dreams literally cast a different shadow onto your life.
“This Too Shall Last” is currently on view at [SPACE] BMW at The Grove, open 10 am- 7 pm, through July 20, 2021
Featured Image: Spencer Mar Guilburt, “MEDITATION I,” 2019-2021
Oil Stick and Acrylic on Canvas
72 in. x 60 in.
Artwork courtesy of the artist
All artwork © Spencer Mar Guilburt 2021
All Fuji Film © Installation Magazine 2021