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Tomás Saraceno at Bonakdar Gallery

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I hate spiders. Arachnaphobia doesn’t begin to describe it.

Tomás Saraceno may not have changed my feelings about spiders but I feel a lot better about their webs. At Bonakdar Gallery, in a darkened rear gallery behind black curtains, glass cases containing the elaborate webs are illuminated from below so that each strand is visible.


Tomás Saraceno Hybrid solitary semi-social solitary SAO 62297 built by: a solo Nephila senegalensis - three weeks, a sextet of Cyrtophora citricola - two weeks, a solo Fecenia sp. - two weeks, 2018 Spidersilk, carbon fiber, glass, metal 15 5/8 x 21 5/8 x 15 3/4 inches; 39.6 x 55 x 40.1 cm Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York/Los Angeles

Saraceno has removed the spiders so my arachnaphobia wasn’t triggered and I could concentrate on their palaces of lacy intricacy. The artist employs the spiders as studies in social activity. The title of each box states which type of spider, whether the web was made individually or with other types of spiders and how long each web took to complete. Most spiders, it turns out, don’t love working with others. (That is one thing we have in common, I guess.) Yet, the spiders under Saraceno’s direction were able to complete interconnected webs of differing shapes, even colors. One spider’s web is slightly gold.


Tomás Saraceno Semi-social mapping of QSO 1548+115 by a solo Cyrtophora citricola - one week, 2017 Spidersilk, archival paper, fixative, ink 29 1/8 x 41 inches; 74 x 104 cm Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York/Los Angeles

On the gallery walls, some of the webs have been colored in black carbon by the artist and floated on panels of white. Spiders are only one aspect of Saraceno’s attention to the notion that all is connected environmentally, energetically, physically.

The 45-year old Argentinian, now living in Berlin, has used his training as an architect to conceive sculptures, environments and social experiments along the lines of visionary Buckminster Fuller. He uses ideals of architecture and art to research possibilities of living without exhausting the earth’s resources.


Tomás Saraceno HR 810 B/M, 2018 Stainless steel, steel thread, polyester rope, monofilament fishing line, mirror panels 25 5/8 x 43 3/8 x 43 3/8 inches; 65 x 110 x 110 cm Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York/Los Angeles

A glance around the gallery reveals mirrored hanging sculptures modeled after soap bubbles and mirrored blown glass spheres, called Aeolus, that rest on pedestals. These are continuations of his Cloud Cities, imaginary realms for survival in space.


Installation view of Tomás Saraceno at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, Los Angeles January 12 to March 2, 2019 Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York/Los Angeles Photo credit: Joshua White / jwpictures.com

The floor of the gallery is covered with white framed panels on which drawings are being made by the energies of the atmosphere. Passing visitors, breezes, rumbling traffic subtly move clear helium-filled balloons tethered to pens that leave black marks on the white panels: Art that literally draws itself.

Saraceno’s complex ideas might be summarized by the essential notion of a web, the interconnectedness of peoples, species, ecologies and universes. Employing the micro to seek meaning in the macro, the artist asks us to devote our attention to details to gain fuller compresension of larger, more daunting concepts.

Art is known to change perception. After my visit, I might even consider myself arachnophilic. The show continues through March 2. For more information, go to Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.