All notes written by Asher Hartman | Notes on Looking

LARA BANK AND THE PORTABLE, POSSIBLE FOREST

Plants occupy a curious space in Los Angeles, along our endless boulevards, the slippery wild spaces, in our pragmatic urban gardens. Dressed in their rugged army and sour greens, saps and dusty forests, they feel heavy here, as if enduring an unfortunate reassignment from a primordial and pleasant film set to the present catastrophe-in-waiting. They hover, necessarily detached from a place that, despite its force, can’t match their slow power. Their mystical authority resounds elsewhere. Here they seem provisional occupants, their majesty unhinged. We need them and rush by them. Without a clear right to existence, they seem, like the rest of us, touched, agitated, leaning toward the bygone. When an artist works with plant life as her primary material, she risks capitalizing on the pathos of the plant in an environment governed by reaction and speed. Their insistent presences, their fragility, are easy plots in a city in love with heroes who reaffirm life’s unalterable brutality. For Lara Bank, whose major recent projects include Tree and Space, The Portable Forest, and the beloved Sea and Space Explorations, plants are raw material, conscripts in a larger concern about power and the right to existence. Lara Bank founded and directed Sea and Space Explorations, an exhibition space that asked straightforward questions about the relationship between the artist and the art gallery. The project treated the art space as less a privileged enclave than a hub of connection and exchange. In the short span of two years, Bank hosted over 300 artists in an array of inventive, intelligent exhibitions, situated largely in conceptual or relational practice. Bank’s integrity and adamant fostering...