For the past few months, artist Luisa Posada Bleier has been hammering, drilling, sawing, and splattering paint in a small room she refers to as her “closet” in the back of the cavernous Space 42 complex near Riverside’s CoRK Arts district. However, for all the noise the Colombian-born artist’s been making, Bleier’s been operating in relative obscurity since moving to Jacksonville from Mexico City more than two years ago . That’s certain to change, though, as Bleier—who was selected as Space 42’s inaugural artist-in-residence—opens a new exhibit of idiosyncratic paintings, sculptures, and screen-prints at the Riverside technology-hub/artist-incubator on Thursday, May 3rd.
An award-winning visual artist who’s exhibited her work in solo and group shows in Colombia, Germany, and Spain, Bleier’s distinctive paintings and sculpture work incorporate patterns and textures in innovative ways. Bleier earned a masters degree in contemporary Fine Art Practices from the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain and a Fine Art degree in Plastic Arts from the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. That she would end up as a working artist was predetermined well before then, Bleier says.
“Art was natural for me,” she says sipping coffee in the covered patio area in front of Space 42’s industrial compound. “There was never really any other choice.”
“The first thing I remember making that had profound effect on me were these little wire sculptures, or figurines,” Bleier recalls. “I said this is my way of talking. This is my language. That’s when it really began.”
Bleier takes a blue-collar approach to her art, rarely sitting idly to wait for the muse to strike her before diving head first into new projects and materials.
“I’d say my art is 99 percent sweating and one percent inspiration,” she says. “You work and then [inspiration] starts coming. It’s a process of finding inspiration.”
Bleier’s invitation to Space 42’s residency program was the result of a confluence of tragic and fortuitous circumstance. After moving to Jacksonville in 2015, Bleier was working out of her home studio in Avondale when an electrical fire persuaded her that it may not be practical (or safe) to confine her work to such a small space. Soon after the fire, Bleier met photographer Michelle Calloway whose husband, Kevin, was in the process of renovating the warehouse that is now Space 42. The Calloways fell in love with Bleier’s work and Kevin—who was planning to make Space 42 the East Coast hub of his L.A.-based technology company Ijhana—decided Bleier would be the perfect fit as the venue’s first artist-in-residence.
“The idea is to give emerging and established visual artists a space to thrive away from their usual environment and obligations,” says Calloway of the residence program, which is just one initiative underway currently at the 22,000 square foot warehouse, which is simultaneously a gallery, a tech and design center, and a community cafe. “Our goal is to create a supportive, open and encouraging environment which allows artists to take risks and pursue new projects and ideas. The artists have the full support of the space, it’s staff, and it’s facilities over an extended two-three month stay so they can produce significant new work, which will culminate in solo exhibitions in Space 42’s main gallery.”
Bleier’s exhibit consists of large scale architectural sculptures made from wood, which, while not a new medium for Bleier, is unique due to the size of the pieces.
“The space has really inspired the scale and the pieces I wanted to work on. Everything from the materials to the colors,” Bleier says of planning her exhibit to fit the capacious Space 42 main gallery. “It’s a huge space. If I had more time, I might have gone even bigger.”
Bleier’s installation will also incorporate large screen prints she’s made in a collaboration with Jacksonville artist, George Cornwell, who has a studio space at nearby CoRK.
“This space has opened up doors for me for collaboration,” she says of her work with Cornwell. “George really wanted to work closely on the process and he’s been a pleasure to work with. Collaborating is fun.”
As for where Posada goes post-residency, that’s TBD, according to all parties involved.
“I’m never leaving, here,” Bleier says, laughing.
“Luisa can stay as long as she wants. We love having her here,” adds Calloway.
The opening reception for Bleier’s exhibit is Thursday May 3, from 7-9 p.m. at Space 42 located at 2670 Phyllis Street in Riverside.