Olga Lah is an installation artist living and working in Los Angeles, CA. She received a B.A in studio art and a B.A. in art history from University of California, Riverside in 2002. She also holds an M.A. in Theology from Fuller Seminary (2006). Lah is an accomplished artist who has earned numerous awards such as First Place in the Art of Now International Competition and finalist for the Kalos Art Prize. She was also selected as a finalist at the 7th International Arte Laguna Prize, held at the Venice Arsenale earlier this year.
A constant motif running through Lah’s work is the unusual or extraordinary use of “ordinary” materials like can lids, sponges and Pentel pen clips. The fact that Lah uses ordinary materials is not, in itself, shocking. If anything, Lah’s work might be thought of as part of a tradition that expands the list of acceptable materials for the artist into the quotidian and banal. What is interesting is the way she uses these everyday materials. There is no hint in Lah’s work of a cynicism that brings the lofty art object down to the world of everyday things. Her work is worlds apart from Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain. Instead, Lah lifts up the ordinary into the extra-ordinary, and she asks us to see things we take for granted as mysteriously and freshly anew.
Her installation Propogate (below) was included in the 2012 exhibition “Escape from the Landfill” at the Huntington Beach Art Center. She covered the walls and ceilings with thousands upon thousands of plastic lids. Like a bacterial growth or creeping mold, the lids seem to invade the space. There is a sense of movement as if the lids are alive. The immense size of this installation makes the viewer not a mere passive onlooker, but the potential victim of this invasion of life.
There is nothing really terrifying about Propogate, or any of Lah’s other work. When looking at her installations, I am struck by the beauty and elegance that they embody. Her installation Ascension (above) is gloriously mysterious. Made of fan trellises, these simple garden structures seem to float and dance in the air.
There is also a playfulness to many of Lah’s installations. She has created several large installations using sponges. In 2011, she produced Array (below) in a storage POD. Having recently moved many of my belongings using a POD, I was first struck by how tragically hilarious it would be to open a POD and discover a seething wall of sponges. Like Propogate, the sponges in Array have a life-like quality that can envelop us. There is also a playfulness in Lah’s choice to install Array in a storage POD. Sponges are, themselves, wonderful storage devices. Array causes me to reflect on the way that the massive storage industry in the United States is like a giant sponge trying to soak up all of the goods that we so rapaciously acquire. When will this sponge become saturated so that all of our worldly belongings come tumbling out before us, flooding our lives with junk?
I highly recommend spending some time looking at Olga Lah’s website. There you will find an online gallery as well as a list of past and upcoming exhibitions. If you are in California, keep your eyes out for two exhibitions of Lah’s work later this year. For your enjoyment, I have included several examples of Lah’s work below: