Linda Arreola

Portrait | About | C.O.L.A. Project | Past Projects

For Linda Arreola, art constitutes a universal language, one that transcends cultures and time periods, a language that is capable of connecting the pre-Columbian to the postcolonial, the biographical to the art historical, and the personal to the political. Working in a manner that is formally rigorous while simultaneously intuitive, Arreola produces geometric abstractions whose color, shape, and line combine the legacy of modernism with compositional principles inherited from early Mesoamerican cultures such as the Maya. These artistic impulses coexist quite comfortably in her work, just as the artist herself, who is both a Mexican American and an Angeleno, lives in a place where these ancient traditions continue to exist in the “City of Tomorrow.”

Arreola’s pieces often start from a faint grid laid out on board, employing a palette of primary colors and layers of geometric forms and shapes. This use of the grid is the beginning of referentiality, given that it is the emblematic form of modernism. While the grid is the basis for the organization of her compositions, it also plays the part of a foil as the subsequent layers of shape and color at times confound and flout its determining principles and at other times adhere strictly to them. Some critics have pointed to the inherently constricting nature of the grid, but Arreola grants herself the freedom to follow or depart from it as she sees fit. This is far from a restrictive place to build upon.

The term build is used intentionally here. The artist has received degrees not in painting but in sculpture and architecture. So while painting may be her medium, her approach to her materials, informed by this background, is very spatially oriented; her pieces constitute almost a diagrammatic chart of the interrelations (whether through pattern, proximity, motion, or opposition) of various geometric forms. It is certainly a harmonious world that viewers of her work have the momentary privilege of inhabiting, a holistic vision that is desperately needed in a fractured cultural and political landscape.

In its will toward a universalizing discourse, Arreola’s work draws on the legacy of modernism. Early twentieth-century practitioners of abstraction such as Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian explored the metaphysical and political (read iconoclastic) dimensions of the form. The ever-expansive space in which Arreola places her work, the cosmic order that she alludes to, cannot be directly represented. This is a space totality with no beginning and end, no middle, no edges; it simply continues indefinitely. It cannot be framed. Linda Arreola’s paintings are thus parts of an unrepresentable whole. The borders of her compositions are important because they imply the continuation of the painting beyond its frame. And she is most interested in this wholeness, this connectedness; it allows her work to be intelligible across cultures and languages. As she puts it, abstraction is like working in a language that few can speak but many can understand. For the C.O.L.A. exhibition, Arreola is producing “abstract landscapes,” some at a larger scale and some including figural elements. Through their size and sense of scale, these compositions suggest an imaginary environment that the viewer can enter.
— Gabriel Cifarelli