Joshua Abarbanel is an artist whose sculptural works combine the compositional precision of engineering with the organic abundance of nature. Like clockwork flowers or carpentry anemones, geological formations and striated landscape, Abarbanel’s microbiological and macro-botanical sculptures for wall and floor involve milled wood and elements of natural science in complex and delightful fractal wonders. The work operates between abstraction, imagery, object, and narrative, and is sometimes explicitly mythological; but it is always engaged with the magic of materials and the alchemical action that invests inanimate objects with life via the artist’s hand.
L.A. WEEKLY: What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
JOSHUA ABARBANEL: Creation and impermanence.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
Yes, I majored in art and psychology as an undergraduate and I have an MFA from UCLA, where I studied ceramics. I have the good fortune to have grown up knowing Jim Bassler, a fantastic artist and human whose genre is weaving. He taught at UCLA for many years and introduced me to Adrian Saxe, then head of the ceramics department, who encouraged me to apply to the MFA program.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I was born in Manchester, England, but L.A. is really my hometown. I grew up here since the age of five when my parents returned from living abroad. I went away for college at UC Berkeley, and then came back a few later for graduate school and stayed put.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
My large-scale sculpture Golem, commissioned by the Jewish Museum Berlin for their exhibition Golem (2016-17), is shipping back to Germany this summer. It will be on long term display at the Jewish Museum in Worms in the exhibition SchUM on the Rhine – From Medieval Era into Modernity, which examines the region’s importance to Jewish intellectual life during the Middle Ages, including inspiring what is thought to be the first written account of a golem. I also have a new piece, Hull 04, in a group show about climate change slated for the fall in Berlin, Mountains to Oceans: the paradox exhibition.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
Music is my gas (funk and old-school rock and roll) and my brakes (I’ve been playing Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert, pretty much on a weekly basis, for more than thirty years).
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