Ambiente Amore: Felipe Lopez at Clarke & Associates

Felipe Lopez, Ambiente Chandelier No. 5, 2017, recycled fishing net, oil-based spray paint, hand-tied fly fishing lures, Resin, light bulb parts, 50 x 10 x 5 inches. Courtesy the artist and Clarke & Associates.

Through the expansive storefront windows of Clarke & Associates in Houston comes a flood of light. It touches every surface—from the wooden floors to the bright paintings and fine nets hanging on white walls. This wash of light is an enhancing setting for the first solo exhibition by artist Felipe Lopez. On view through Aug. 24, Lopez’s Ambiente Amore presents a plethora of multimedia works that range from paintings and monoprints, to sculptural, hand-woven nets, to cast resin light bulbs, and electric neon installations. At the exhibition’s center are water and light and the interaction of these two enchanting yet unruly phenomena. Seeking depth and mystery, Lopez immerses the audience in his experimental processes to produce an environment of harmonious and discordant sensations.

Featured in the painting series Space Is Only Noise That You Can See, Lopez’s most captivating works depict a chiseled, V-shaped form. The inside of the V is layered with colors, typically beginning with bright whites or yellows at the tip followed by intense oranges or blues. Surrounded by a negative space below—often rendered with confident, painterly stokes—the light-filled V powerfully cuts through the canvas like a fiery William Turner sun. The glowing beacon is illustrated as if the viewer was glimpsing a sunset through a rocky valley or gleaning a corner of sky from the bottom of the ocean.

In this abstract space, Lopez captures distance, depth, and a moment of transition with authority. The effect of the departing light is that of yearning—the feeling of being left and the need to follow. Yet, the viewer’s desire is abruptly hindered by the presence of shadowy, diamond-shaped patterns layered over the receding channel. Although sculptural, the netting appears only within the painting’s foreground and becomes an object of restraint for the viewer. In other works that explore the aesthetics of water through rippling spray-painted and printed forms, Lopez drapes an actual net over the top of the canvas to similar effect. Whether in a two- or three-dimensional state, the netting, unfortunately, returns flatness to the painting and counteracts the magic of the painted illusion of depth.

Nature, ecology, and the fragility of the planet are some of the interconnected themes that the artist has noted as areas of interest in his work. With a personal passion for fishing, Lopez has crafted each net and lure in Ambiente Amore by hand. He often pairs the colorfully dyed nets with cast resin light bulbs, each containing a vibrant fishing fly. In series such as Ambiente Chandelier and Fractured Entanglement, the clear, upside-down bulbs hang heavy from the perimeter or inner matrix of the netting. Like water-filled pods, the bulbs capture a moment of man’s interaction with nature—the waiting trap in the water. The fishing fly’s plumy body, wide, artificial eye, and sharp hook are jarringly magnified in the rounded resin shape. While the works struggle to define the conflict between man’s reverence for nature and his skillful ability to harness it, the fluidity of the open nets and the strong forms that Lopez shapes them into add beauty and an aesthetic focus to the sculptural series.

The artist takes experimentation with environment a step further in the neon series Space Is Only Noise That You Can See Sculpture. In Space Is Only Noise That You Can See #4 (neon), Lopez’s vibrant V becomes a cavity cut into a suspended box. Exuding warm, electric light, the recessed space is contained beneath wire mesh and embellished with feathered plastic. In its physical form, this familiar scene is less restrictive as the mesh seems to enclose the box’s space rather than confine the viewer. In a final, fully-immersive, aquatic experience, Lopez invites the viewer into Space Is Only Noise That You Can See #5 (neon), a mirror-clad room, darkened with a black sheet, and lit from above with colorful, amoeba-like forms—their plastic cilia in full bloom.

Felipe Lopez’s ambition to explore new expressions and sensations is palpable in Ambiente Amore. While some of the sculptural works, particularly the neons, have an unfinished, experimental quality, many of Lopez’s paintings juggle conflicting perceptions of light and depth. Lopez’s exhibition will at most hypnotize and at least amuse—just beware of wandering into a floating net.