Eight years ago, working in his studio in Barcelona, Bosco Sodi accidentally dropped a bucket of his sawdust, pigment and binder mixture on the floor. ‘I didn’t have time to clean it because I had to leave for vacation,’ he recalls. ‘When I came back it was all cracked, but I liked it.’
That accident became the artist's Pollock moment. He’s spent the ensuing years exploring a material obsession with craggy, volcanic paintings – some made with 30 kgs of saturated pigments sourced on travels to India, China and Morocco – that reference everything from Donald Judd’s minimalism, Jay DeFeo’s abstractions and land art pioneers like Robert Smithson.
‘I think the most important part of my work is the process,’ says Sodi. ‘The outcome is secondary for me.’
Judging from Sodi’s omnipresence on the international gallery and museum scene, those outcomes have been resoundingly successful. 'Malpais' – his first solo show in Los Angeles, curated by Matthew Schum and co-produced by his New York gallerist Paul Kasmin, Brandon Davis Projects and Jose Mestre – touched down last week in a lofty, rough-hewn West Hollywood space that formerly housed a Ralph Lauren boutique.
‘"Malpais" is this desert place where there’s nothing, but that was Matthew’s idea. I like to be very respectful of the curator,’ says Sodi of the installation. Paintings and volcanic rock sculptures fired with red glaze and real gold are mixed with stack bricks made from local mud and sand sourced by brick-makers near Casa Wabi, Sodi’s Tadao Ando-designed studio in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. These have been set inside the nooks, courtyard and galleries of the storefront.
‘I’ve never seen all of these works together because I’ve had them in storage in New York,’ Sodi admits. ‘It was much more of an experiment for me. I’m surprised how there are so many correlations.’
As an example, he points to a 2010 silver pigment painting divided into quadrants set in dialogue with a stack of the Casa Wabi cubes. They are fired at different temperatures with different materials and take on the patina of Corten steel when dry. Some are also fired in gold, like the volcanic rocks, which he sources from Guadalajara and uses just as they were found.
The stars of the show, however, are round, trapezoidal and square iterations of Sodi’s iconic pigment paintings, many of which are finished in his radioactive hues of blue, red, pink and yellow. Nearly all of them were sourced from his personal collection and mark the last time he worked with colour. A massive black and white DeFeo-esque landscape nearly swallows a gold mud cube stack standing before it. The other standouts are lustrous silver works that sparkle with a glittery green glaze – the result of a white Japanese pigment combining with a potentially toxic aluminium pigment.
‘I look for a lot of randomness in my work,’ says Sodi. ‘This only works with silver pigment, but when it does it’s amazing.’