Nino Mier Gallery is thrilled to present Faccia d’angelo / Every angel has another face, an exhibition by New York-born and Sicily-based artist Lola Montes. The exhibition comprises hand-painted ceramic tiles, reliefs, sculptural vessels and candelabra, and will be on view at our Glassell Park gallery from July 16 – August 27, 2022.
The exhibition’s title, Faccia d’angelo / Every angel has another face, refers to an Italian idiom deployed with playful irony to deem someone as hiding something more duplicitous under a grace face. Angels abound in Montes’ work, from her paintings to her candelabra. Ascending Souls, for instance, is a six-tile painted ceramic composition that depicts a series of elongated figures rising up to the heavens with a chromatic expressionism reminiscent of late El Greco. Her fascination with the supernatural world is evoked through her fast, fluid brushwork that suggests spectrality, as though Montes catches her figures in a magical, rare moment of visibility. In her Angel projections series, Montes constructs egg-shaped vessels with cutouts of angels on their sides. When a candle is placed in the center of the ceramic, the angels, carved in various postures mid-jump, dance across the walls. They flicker and flow in a manner paralleled by the swirling blue painted on the ceramic’s surface—until the candle is out, at least. These elusive, impish, and fleeting angels reveal the “other faces” of Montes’ ascending souls.
Angelic icons in Faccia d’angelo / Every angel has another face become visual noise in Montes’ more talismanic ceramic paintings. Spell, for instance, comprises eight ceramic tiles arranged in rows of two. Each relief tile contains both an impastoed composition and a carved, roving line that engulfs it. Some compositions depict standing figures, while others are abstracted, replacing the figure with a body of thickly-applied paint. Spell, like Montes’ other ceramic reliefs, recalls Lucio Fontana’s materialist reappraisal of Italian Gothic painting of the 1950s and ‘60s, a key touchpoint for the artist.
The prominence of ceramic in Faccia d’angelo / Every angel has another face marks a turn in Montes’ practice, which previously centered on watercolor and oil painting, and film and video. “Painting on tiles feels like a natural extension of my watercolors,” says the artist. “Even though it’s a hard surface, there is a liquid element when drawing on the tiles that feel very similar to drawing on painting with watercolors.”
Materials and materiality are critical features of the artist’s practice. Montes works in a foundry to create her own tiles, and prefers to work outdoors, where the natural world’s incursions and inspirations can inform her work. Invested in harnessing the creative power of natural materials, Montes is also drawn to the element of improvisation and chance while sculpting ceramics. She describes the firing process as alchemical: it is esoteric and transformative, meaning that her materials undergo the very transmutations that her angels do. As Montes has stated, “The tiles have a physicality, a body that as an object is unique.”
Lola Montes (b. 1981, New York, NY; lives and works in Sicily, IT) received a BFA from The Cooper Union School in 2008. She has exhibited at Muse Gallery, Samedan, CH; Goodroom, Munich, DE; Mana Contemporary, Jersey City, NJ, US; Zuecca Projects, Venice, IT; Ileana Tounta Contemporary Art Center, Athens, Greece; and the Ludwig Museum, Koblenz, DE; among many others. In addition to her painting and sculpture practice, Montes is a filmmaker, editor, and sound designer.