Born 1962 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; lives in New York, New York
Lisa Sigal’s practice lies at the intersection of painting, sculpture, installation, and architecture; at once integral and site-dependent, her painted constructions insinuate themselves into the physical and theoretical fabric of the built environment. The complex relationship between the illusionistic spaces of painting and the physical presence of sculpture stands at the core of her work.
The loss of a long-time studio in 2003 was a signal event in her work’s evolution toward a more ambiguous physicality. “When I was evicted,” she wrote recently, “I dismantled the walls and took them with me. I brought my sheetrock walls, painted with images of an urban landscape, and leaned them against a sheetrock wall that had been built in a gallery. . . . A dismantled wall with a painting on it leaned against a sheetrock surface that I was painting: where was the line between illusion and material?” In Sigal’s work this line is always strategically indeterminate. In pieces like Ramshackle, executed at Artists Space in New York in 2003, or On the Rooftop, Sigal’s contribution to the Brooklyn Museum’s 2004 Open House exhibition, her carefully orchestrated interventions appear to be simultaneously coalescing and coming apart at the seams—bits of Sheetrock, featuring painted passages that both suggest intentional representational imagery and mimic casual traces of construction activity, lean against, jut out from, and pile up in front of the existing wall.
This tension between chance and control, between structure and chaos, is continued in Sigal’s recent works. Her ambitious A House of Many Mansions, created at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in 2005, features a painted silhouette of a large estate home on which she created flowing sequences of painted drywall and plywood like something from a shantytown, disrupting both the formal space of the underlying rendering and the notion of grand comfort that it conveyed. Her newest pieces, which incorporate both appropriated and fabricated wallpaper, as well as various found notes, photographs, and other objects, are descended from a series of what Sigal calls Tent Paintings—folded Sheetrock panels that similarly recall marginal forms of shelter. In these latest pieces, the wallpaper allows for further freedom and refinement in the artist’s forms, as well as increasingly rich admixtures of interior and exterior, public and private, the social and the domestic. JEFFREY KASTNER