The October/November 2020 issue of Artforum magazine features the work of artist and CalArts alum Luciano Perna’s (Art MFA 86, BFA 84) still life photographs. They’re the focus of “Pandemic Flowers,” an essay written by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, the Andrew W. Mellon professor of modern art at Harvard University.
Buchloh writes that discovering Perna’s photographs was a timely “a digital chance encounter,” that inspired him to investigate more closely the linkages between Perna’s still lifes and the effects of living in isolation during the pandemic.
An artist utterly unknown to me seemed to suspend his floral semaphores between alarm and seduction. Alarm, since Perna’s random specimens were apparently not singled out just by an anxiety over the increasingly precarious ecology of plants, threatened with extinction by perpetually diversified political and economic practices of chemical and climatic destruction, but also by the sense of an aggravated actuality imagining the dangers to life in general under the pandemic. Seduction, since these images not only mobilized flora’s momentous transhistorical attractions, but also deployed nature morte’s age-old meditative powers to stall the paradoxical precipitation of time under the pandemic’s stultifying evacuation of most of the structured functions from everyday life.
An inventive and imaginative artist, Perna seems to elude categorization. His artwork has been described as Duchampian, Futurist, Constructivist, and Surrealist.
The broad spectrum across which he works, includes painting, photography, sculpture, and installation. According to his bio in Bomb magazine, “Perna has made pictures out of coffee grounds and coins, smashed lightbulbs and sand. His sculptures, which sometimes consist of Weber grills, feathers, old motorcycles, and ping-pong balls, give funny physical form to the run-of-the-mill weirdness at the basis of everyday reality.”
Read “Pandemic Flowers” in Artforum here.