Laura Daquila’s Los Angeles is in the details

One of the great things about my ongoing Monday Night concert series (which began at Il Corral in 2005 and continues on at Pehrspace) is the opportunity to meet young artists and watch them grow and absorb new influences (hopefully aided and abetted by some insane entertainment I’ve facilitated).

Case in point: Laura Daquila, a long term Monday Night participant and supporter, whose contributions to the “Business As Usual” exhibit opening Friday at Otis College of Art & Design are anything but.

Daquila, who has seen all the shit go down (good, bad and transcendent) at my shows and even lives in venue (she’s one of the women at Women house), explains that “The whole original concept that I worked off was small details get passed by in Los Angeles. I like to focus on the details of the city and magnify them.”

I feel like I’ve stepped into a whole new Los Angeles after seeing her work.

It’s pretty thrilling to watch young artists like Laura Daquila develop their body of work over an extended period of time. Daquila takes everyday L.A. experiences that happen emotionally, psychologically, musically and reinterprets them in a new realm—through her drawing, painting, photography and quite impressive gallery presentation skills.

Laura Daquila

Though her art magnifies small details of the Los Angeles life, that doesn’t mean that the works are physically large (what could compete with L.A.’s sprawl?). Explains the artists: “[They’re not big]—not in the physical size. If you let my art be loud it will be…But it’s not in-your-face kind of work.”

This fragility of place and presence that Daquila explores is fascinating to me, so I spoke to her on the phone. Here’s what the visual artist, music fan, and Women house resident had to say…

When did you first come to Los Angeles?
In 2006. I moved from New Jersey when I was 17.

What inspires and informs your aesthetic most?
I like looking old catalogs from the late 1800s early 1900s—lots of hand cut prints. Lots of lines. The lines and details in them are just mesmerizing. Also friends, sand, insanity, sunsets and fire—beautiful things I think of when I think of L.A.

So “Business As Usual”—the exhibit which opens Friday, 6-9pm, is a group show—the biggest one for graduating students?

How many pieces of yours are in there?
I have four pieces in the show spread throughout the school. One on first floor, three upstairs—two of which are in galleries and another in the  hallway.

Perhaps you could describe how you conceptualized “The Question isn’t at the Bottom of the Bottle.” It sounds like a music scene/heavy drinking-inspired theme, but I know it’s more than that.
Well it’s comprised of photographs of the city. Mostly taken at sunset and also some night photographs. They’re mostly of neon-lit intersections and streets and what you can see from the street when you’re in your car.

The materials are bottle caps, wire, glue, and contact prints—which is what you make with traditional film when you print directly from the negative as a test. But I’m actually using them in the piece. I put the tiny photos in bottle caps placed on the wall around 58 inches. The wire connects them and glues to the side of the bottle cap. It kind of makes this line—like I made a drawing on the wall.

It’s like if you are drinking away a problem instead of thinking about what to do to fix it, they say the answer isn’t at the bottom of a bottle. Well what if you are searching for the question? It isn’t at the bottom of the bottle either.

What about “Transposed Sunsets”?
That’s an umbrella title. I took the colors from the L.A. sky and transposed them unto objects in the landscape. I chose to paint the sky out too. The sky is totally blank.

It makes for some gorgeous images. How did you come up with this?
When I was looking at my photos of sunsets I noticed the colors in sky are so vivid they reflect in buildings. I was the only one noticing these details so I painted out the sky so people could see what I was seeing. The sky was getting all the attention—those neon colors—not the objects reflecting it.

The power lines are black because they never pick up anything they just suck in all the color around them. The way I painted them all droopy they mimic my hand movements across the canvas. They have a hand drawn quality.

The reason is that where I grew up, we had no power lines—they were all underground. So living in Los Angeles where the landscape is so saturated with power lines…it’s entrancing. The power lines themselves are like drawings. They make this amazing grid all through L.A. They are just beautiful to me.

You have a zine piece—which seems appropriate as there seems to be tons of new zine publishing lately. Tell me about that one.
It’s called “Artist Books, Sketch Books.” They’re handmade books that I carried around until I finished them. They took about three months. I’ve been carrying around sketch books since I was twelve. I’m always drawing. They’re filled with objects and things I observe. I have a four page spread going around my room drawing everything in it. There two sketchbooks and there are 75 zines to be given out. The books—the originals—are hand-bound and hand-sewn and available for sale, but cost a lot more than the zines.

Your final piece—”A Year of Questions in Snapshots”—is your most elaborate. Perhaps you could explain the installation?
It’s 52 snapshots taken throughout 2009. They’re 4×6 snapshot-sized prints like you get at CVS. They all have a piece of frame that holds them on the wall. Each everyday picture of Los Angeles is painted with gouache—there is hidden writing in every photo. But I matched the color of the gouache to the colors in the photos so closely you can barely see the words I’ve printed. Like: “Who, when, how, what, where, why?” You know—what they teach you when you are learning to research. Research is examning details—movements and moments that are missed.

An Otis degree is a big accomplishment. Most art students never get that far. They say fuck it and bolt (like I did). Are you amazed you made it this far?
This show is a really big sigh of relief.

How did you not get sucked into this city that fascinates you?
I almost let it slip at one point. But then I thought: I gotta go. I have to get this done. I do have to take a couple more credits still.

When you meet all the requirements and get your degree, will you stay in  L.A.?
Yeah I’m in love with this city. I love life here and I love the scene.

What will you do?
I’m going to get a job. Just enough to get by and then hopefully show in galleries.

See Laura Daquila’s artwork in “Business As Usual” at Otis College of Art & Design this Friday, May 7, from 6-9pm.

For full details go here

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