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Luciano Perna, a conceptual artist from LA, dies at the age of 63

Luciano Perna, a conceptual artist whose whimsical sculptures and varied photographs play with the elasticity of matter and time, often hiding unexpected autobiographical depths, died December 28 in Los Angeles.

The cause was an apparent heart attack, according to Darcy Huebler, his 35-year-old wife and associate dean at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. He was 63.

Perna was among the 90 artists featured in “Photography of Invention: American Images of the 1980sOrganized in 1989 by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the invention of the modern camera. His work has been featured in exhibitions at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, the Laguna Art Museum, the List Visual Art Center at MIT, New York’s DIA Art Foundation, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the ICA in London, and other museums and artists . walking spaces.

In the early months of 2020’s effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic through confiscated lockdowns, Perna began posting sparse, elegant still life images to social media. The photographs maximized the capacity of the digital medium as an exhibition space that is simultaneously independent and communal.

The eerie images feature ancient museum artifacts, dissolving tangles of thread and fragile, blooming succulents and cacti against a velvety, faintly menacing black background. The objects appear strange and ancient, delicate and determined. The photos were shown the following fall art forum Magazine, where critic Benjamin HD Buchloh described them as “flowers of current tightness and despair.” Inkjet prints were exhibited in Paris last year at the Marian Goodman Library.

A closeup of a Schlumbergera plant in bloom against a black background.

Luciano Perna, “April 22, 2020, 6:46, Schlumbergera”, 2020, inkjet on laid paper

(Luciano Perna)

Born on January 14, 1958 in Naples, Italy to Elena Chiesa and Berardo Perna, he began taking photographs at the age of 14, inspired by his father’s amateur work with a now classic Leica M3 camera. Young Perna learned to develop and print his images in a home darkroom.

After the deaths of both his parents within months, when he was still under 16, he moved to Caracas, Venezuela to live with an older half-brother. Claudia Perna, a conceptual artist and geographer. He stayed five years.

During his brief tenure at the National Library of Venezuela, he did archival work, which included documenting Carlos Andrés Pérez’s presidential campaign. He also found work at a local commercial portrait studio. Throughout his career, Perna captured international artists in photographic portraits, some casual and others inspired by Man Ray’s dadaist and surrealist cinematography.

Claudio, who died in 1997, introduced Luciano to the adventurous countercultural curriculum he read about at CalArts. Perna took the plunge and enrolled in the American school in 1979. First explored in Caracas, the archival and portrait threads converged in LA, where he later worked as a studio technician for Ray Eames on the production of the 1989 Abrams book, Eames Design: Work of the Office of Charles and Ray Eames.

At CalArts, Perna found a sympathetic faculty cohort, including such conceptual artists as John Baldessari, Douglas Huebler (whose daughter he would marry), and Barbara Kruger, as well as photographers Judy Fiskin and Jo Ann Callis. He absorbed lessons from the feminist art movement, which had become a central part of the school’s broad curriculum. He earned a BFA in 1984 and an MFA in 1986, both in photography.

The Italian Arte Povera movement of the late 1960s, which had put aside traditional art materials such as paint, canvas, carved stone, and cast metal in favor of humble, everyday items often found in the home, was instrumental in the design of Pernas’s emerging aesthetics involved. An edition of small torch sculptures was typical, a theme reminiscent of the precedents of Jasper Johns and Claes Oldenburg, but taking on a very different form.

Instead of casting the object in bronze or building a towering monument out of industrial steel, as American pop artists had done, he cobbled together the objects from common household items: kitchen drain plugs, light bulbs, batteries taped down, and an on-off switch. Switch switch made of clothespins. The fully functional result was also a fun, unpretentious tool that was helpful in conceptually resolving blocks of conventional thinking that needed to be flushed down the drain.

In other examples, an inverted plate of spaghetti on a canvas might represent the satisfying consumption of tangled linear strands of paint in a Jackson Pollock drip painting. For a sculpture entitled ‘Arte Povera’, a black wheelbarrow with chunky stones painted with gold was both dedicated and evoked by handwork in an age of post-industrial transformation.

Perna was just as likely to craft a life-size sculpture of a motorcycle or a race car, purportedly male subjects, out of kitchen pots and pans, dartboards, vinyl records, and backyard grills as he was out of the more familiar individual parts of the vehicles, which one could easily glean from any ordinary car dealership. A playful, cozy do-it-yourself ethos has been reinforced.

His bike was based on a movie frame – the so-called “Captain America Chopper” that Peter Fonda rode in “Easy Rider”, the 1969 cult classic at the end of an era. The legendary motorcycle with an American flag petrol tank was celebrated on a poster that adorned the bedroom of Perna’s youth in Naples. His fabricated version featured the famous fork that extended more than a foot beyond standard Harley-Davidson length and consisted of a pair of hospital crutches. The visual rhyme conjured up a culture of hurt.

“I haven’t seen the film,” the artist told critic David Pagel in 1993 bomb Magazine interview: “It was not accessible to me. I just saw the pictures and imagined what was in the film.”

Photographs’ ability to ignite the imagination, rather than simply indexing reality, has fueled much of Perna’s work. The humility that is essential for an Arte Povera aesthetic brought all flights of utopian fantasies down to earth. Fertile cultural terrain offered life in Naples, Caracas, and Los Angeles—great international cities also rooted in fallen Spanish colonial empires.

The multi-layered fictions of Hollywood movies provided the subject matter for a one-man show at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in 1999. Included was a cherry red Ducati motorcycle whose hyper-futuristic, streamlined design was a glamorous surprise, hidden behind a wide horizontal base painted matte black was. The pedestal, reminiscent of the mysterious monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but here tilted noticeably on its side, rested on a trolley. The ensemble waited to be removed for the next made-up scene in an imaginary film.

The exhibition in the art museum entitled “Science/Fiction: A Movie Studio Set” was framed as a self-made soundstage. In an Arte Povera twist, dozens of ordinary purple egg cartons pinned to the back wall made for a “futuristic” spaceship interior suitable for daydreams rising from a child’s playroom. Using the camera as an industrial emblem for the visual history of modern art, Perna’s work countered a general urge to fabricate idealized visions.

In 1988, the Fahey Klein Gallery presented Perna’s first commercial solo exhibition of photographs. A year later, in Thomas Solomon’s garage, Perna showed geometric abstract paintings made of plastic sheeting with hidden metal weights; each work was assessed by the pound.

Perna let out a sinfully comical tone Finger in the eye of an unprecedented art market boom of the 1980s that broke records and made headlines. The heavier the painting, the higher the price.

Solo exhibitions followed at the Rosamund Felsen Gallery, also in LA, the Holly Solomon Gallery in New York, the Dennis Anderson Gallery in Antwerp, Belgium, the Tanja Grunert Gallery in Cologne, Germany, and numerous others. He has been included in more than 50 group shows in the United States and Europe. His work is preserved at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Museum of Fine Arts, La Chaux-des-Fonds, Switzerland; and numerous private collections.

Ten photographs of emerging and established artists associated with CalArts as the Los Angeles art scene rose to international prominence in the early 1980s—including Michael Asher, Jonathan Borofsky, Lari Pittman, Stephen Prina, David Salle, and a few others— illustrated the catalog for the major 2006 survey exhibition “Los Angeles 1955-1985: birth of an art capitalorganized by the Center Pompidou in Paris.

Memorial plans for Perna are pending.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-01-04/artist-luciano-perna-obituary Luciano Perna, a conceptual artist from LA, dies at the age of 63

Caroline Bleakley

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