Featured in
Issue 230

Nancy Lupo is Spiralling

A show of the artist’s new work at Kristina Kite, Los Angeles, slides between inanimate and living, sculpture and performance, artist and viewer

BY Gracie Hadland in Exhibition Reviews , US Reviews | 20 JUL 22

More than panic, spiralling is something deeper. It’s going down a rabbit hole, following the worst-case scenario to the very bottom. Spiralling can be fun, reckless, like dancing drunk; or it can feel like a treacherous fall. But spirals are, in a way, inert. A spinning, spiral-shaped object may provide the illusion of dilation and progression, but it ultimately rotates on an axis, never moving up or down, backward or forward.  

The spiral – as both a psychological state and a physical form – is the central motif of Nancy Lupo’s show of new work, ‘Dying Play’, at Kristina Kite in Los Angeles. Ten kinetic sculptures hang from the gallery’s high ceilings at about mid-calf height, lightly grazing the floor or just about to, slowly twirling. Revelling in their suspension, the works appear to expand but remain within their set circumferences, performing in choreographed limbo. 

A range of sculptures hung from the ceiling above a black and white tiled floor strewn with black rose petals
Nancy Lupo, 'Dying Play', 2022, installation view. Courtesy: Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles; photograph: Paul Salveson

The objects on view are made from what look like umbrella handles, adorned with fabric and metal accessories. Resembling well-worn wind-chimes but moving with mechanical precision, the sculptures oscillate between something alive and inanimate. Disco Weeper (2022) is adorned with casts of the artist’s hand, specifically of the space between the thumb and the index finger where grips meet in a handshake. The organic collides with the synthetic at that site of connection: satin, velvet, fishnet, nylon and plastic mingle with casts resembling animal bones.  

Image of spiraling, black cloth-clad sculpture hanging from the ceiling studded with sequins with a translucent cast of the artist's hand at bottom
Nancy Lupo, Disco Weeper, 2022, stainless steel, glass, resin, nylon, rhinestones, plastic motor and battery, 50 × 10 × 8 cm. Courtesy: Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles; photograph: Paul Salveson

The gallery’s signature black and white marble floor adds drama to the installation, furthering the operatic wordplay of the title. ‘Dying Play’ evokes performance but also a kind of foreplay, the sculptures gyrating toward an unattained climax until the battery runs out. The sculptures are arranged like dancers performing on a ballroom floor or like pawns on a chessboard. The floor is strewn with black faux rose petals, like a stage after a performance.  

Lupo is a fastidious observer, interested in the idiosyncrasies of mundane objects: their sounds, their shapes, their textures. As is typical of the artist’s practice, the works here look almost improvised or haphazardly tossed together, their meaning often coyly hidden from the viewer, confined to the process of the objects’ making. One imagines Lupo stopping to look at something in greater detail, contemplating the turn of an umbrella handle, perhaps, or the pattern of rain streaming into the gutter. Given Lupo’s introspection, the centripetal force of the spirals seems fitting.  

An aluminum and colorful cloth sculpture that hangs from the ceiling
Nancy Lupo, iNAMORATA, 2022, stainless steel, aluminium, swivel hooks, Inamorata bolero, plastic motor and battery, 76 × 13 × 8 cm. Courtesy: Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles; photograph: Paul Salveson

In that sense, centrifugal force is at play, too: the viewer’s own idiosyncratic associations imbue the objects with significance. The umbrella handle becomes a dancing figure; a cast of the artist’s hand looks like a sex toy or a fetish object. In Petals and Spiral Mix (2022), for instance, what at first appears to be a pile of sawdust waiting to be swept up is, in fact, brass shavings from the frame of a mirror. In her artist statement, Lupo describes gathering the shavings, and asks us to imagine the sound of the work’s making: she scooped them with card stock into an aluminium dustpan. 

Insallation shot which includes brass shavings, black petals, and multimedia sculptures hung from the ceiling
Nancy Lupo, 'Dying Play', 2022 installation view. Courtesy: Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles; photograph: Paul Salveson

Lupo’s is the kind of work that lingers with the viewer – as if the spirals on view do, in fact, extend past their physical bounds. ‘Spiral era ensues,’ Lupo concludes in her artist statement. After we attended the show’s opening, a group of us went to a fancy hotel in Pasadena where none of us felt we belonged. Chandeliers hung above us, spinning slowly. We opened doors to nowhere and took pictures of the patterns on the carpet.  

Nancy Lupo, 'Dying Play' is on view at Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles, until August 13, 2022. 

Main image: Nancy Lupo, 'Dying Play', 2022, installation view. Courtesy: Kristina Kite Gallery, Los Angeles; photograph: Paul Salveson

Gracie Hadland is a writer who lives in Los Angeles, USA.