The Smog Collector (1987), Abeles stenciled images of U.S. presidents on porcelain plates, left them on the roof of her studio for varying lengths of time, and let nature do the rest — which nature gleefully did, filling in the outlines with smoggy particulate dust. In her new exhibition, "Valises for Camp Ground: Arts, Corrections and Fire Management in the Santa Monica Mountains," Abeles has created — with the help of firefighting women inmates from L.A. County's Camp 13 — adorable small suitcases that open up to tableaux of miniature, bonsai-like forests. But the juxtapositions of fire-ravaged landscapes with lush woods raise questions about the environment and emphasize that cute is not what Abeles is aiming for.
Kim Abeles' work doesn't just comment on the world around her. Instead, the L.A. artist pulls raw matter from that world and places it at the center of her mixed-media work. In her celebrated early series