CLOSE LOOKS: "DRAWN TO EXPLAIN" BY AMALIA PICA
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Walking towards the Manning Drive entrance of the Craige parking deck, you will see that the parking garage is host to a larger-than-life mixed-media artwork: Amalia Pica’s Drawn to Explain. The work is composed of wire and metal sculptures interwoven with massive geometric shapes and patterns painted directly onto the building that form a total of fourteen diagrams. These designs and sculptures reach six stories to the top of the deck and cover its northwest and a portion of its northeast walls.
On the main side of the parking deck against the gray concrete of the parking garage, bright, playful colors form a series of eleven interconnected diagrammatic designs: arrows, charts, nodules, graphs, and other geometric shapes. These designs are abstract but interact with one another; arrows and lines connect different sections of the work. The painted sections are light blue, bright red, seafoam green, rich yellow, coral, and peach. The metal sculptures are red, a deep green, bright yellow, electric blue, peach, light blue, and black.
On a shorter wall to the left of the pedestrian entrance to the garage there are three additional diagrammatic designs, including a large, light blue arrow which starts in the lower left corner of the wall. The arrow progresses towards the upper right and connects with three other bright red arrows which point over the sidewalk leading to the main door. One arrow points to the roof, one to the middle of the deck, and one is parallel with the ground and continues to the other side of the wall.
To the right of the pedestrian entrance is a thick, light blue line, which wraps around to the northwest side of the deck. This line becomes part of an arrow which points to a circular pattern of overlapping arrows painted in corals and pinks on the main side of the parking deck. The center of the arrows is left blank and the gray concrete shows through. On top of this pattern a sculpture composed of trapezoidal, iron grillwork forms two vertical, beaded lines. To the left of these lines, different trapezoidal shapes are scattered and off-kilter. The metal trapezoids are black, bright yellow, light blue, and a slightly darker peach than the painted arrows.
Near the upper left-hand section of the arrows close to the top of the parking deck, there is a large sculpture made up of a blue circle, wavy, thin wires of blue and green ending in yellow nodules. This sculpture links the peach and red arrows to a large, semi-circle painted in a lemony yellow that touches the very top of the deck. In the lower right portion of this yellow semi-circle is a flat, circular piece of metal that partially covers one of the deck’s openings. It is painted a darker yellow with a blue dot in the center. Three thick red lines protrude from the interior of the circle and reach outwards, dividing it into three pie-shaped sections.
In the upper right-hand corner of the yellow semi-circle, two seafoam green arrows fold over one another, forming an oblong shape. The head of each arrow points to the end of the other. Even further to the left of the green arrows, a large wire sculpture zigzags across the open spaces of the deck. The sculpture is made of red wire which connects two green, two blue, and two yellow nodules. Small arrowheads begin and end the wire.
To the left of the yellow section on the top right corner of the main side of the deck, there is a triangular patch of seafoam green paint. On top of this is a black wire sculpture in the shape of two horizontal black ovals lying next to one another, joined at their edges. In this sculpture there are three red diamonds, one on the far-left tip of the ovals and one in the center of each oval. Below this figure is a series of fourteen peach and red metal circles, each attached to a single vertical black strip of metal and one longer, horizontal piece of metal. An inverted image of this design rests below, reflecting the above circles and lines. Small scissor icons rest between two of the circles on the above design and one on the end of the lower design while a black circle and an arrow interrupt the above design.
Walking closer to the entrance, the main wall of the deck, with all of its reds, yellows, light blues, greens, and peaches, passes out of sight. To the viewer’s right there is another wire sculpture composed of rounded red, green, and blue shapes. Each of these shapes connect at a central point along a thin black line to form a graph with an x and y axis. To the left of this is another large patch of seafoam green paint, spanning three levels of the deck. On top of this is layered a final wire sculpture, consisting of deep blue, peach, light blue, bright yellow, and black metal disks. The disks are made of mesh and are linked with black and red wires. Some of the shapes are only connected to one other disk, while others are connected to as many as five.
Taken as a whole, Drawn to Explain vibrantly weaves together its disparate elements and transforms the parking structure into a piece of art. The cohesive color palette, arrows, and connecting lines link each pattern to one another, making it clear that the different patterns and sculptures of this work are part of a larger whole.
Drawn to Explain combines a range of disciplines taught and studied at UNC-Chapel Hill. Amalia Pica treats art as a site of such convergence, highlighting its primary function as a way of thinking, of bringing things together, processing the world, and forming connections. The work is not only interdisciplinary but, more precisely, it dissolves disciplinary barriers. This is particularly important today, as we face a range of complex problems demanding unconventional thinking that draws upon diverse fields at once. Some people might find familiar graphics in the work. Most likely will not. But it’s the work’s obscurity and ambiguity that dissolves boundaries, raising core questions: Is this art or science? What’s the difference? Why do we separate these forms of knowledge from each other, something that was not always done? Perhaps more pointedly, Drawn to Explain reveals that such divisions — and attendant terminology such as “STEM” — are fictions. (Art involves science and technology all the time!) The unusual venue for the work is also significant. Often overlooked, the parking deck is an in-between place, where several branches of university life converge: academics, medicine, athletics. What could be more UNC than that?!
- Cary Levine, Associate Professor of Art History, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The Craige Parking Deck is adorned with an art installation titled Drawn To Explain by artist Amalia Pica on September 19, 2023, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)
Amalia Pica, Argentinian, works in London, born 1978, Drawn to Explain, 2019-23, paint and powder-coated aluminum on concrete, Ackland Art Museum, Commissioned by Arts Everywhere with the support of the Office of the Chancellor, the Department of Transportation and Parking, the Carol L. Folt Fund for the Arts, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Lockwood, Jr., James Keith Brown ’84 and Eric Diefenbach, Ackland Fund, and John A. Powell ’77, 2023.12. © 2023 Amalia Pica
- Take an inventory of the artwork. What shapes do you see? How many different textures do you notice? Which elements can you identify, and which do you have questions about?
- Notice where your eyes are drawn to first. Where do they move next? Which formal elements (such as line, shape, texture, and color) has the artist used to create this sense of movement?
- How, if at all, does your experience of the artwork change as you look at the different sides of the installation? How is this different than viewing the work from a photograph on a screen?
- Consider the colors used to create the diagrams and shapes in Drawn to Explain. What associations do you have with these colors? What effect do these colors have?
- The diagrams represent the ideas and processes of many different departments at UNC-Chapel Hill. What strategies has the artist used to convey each element as part of a larger whole?
- Learn more about Amalia Pica’s new site-specific work for UNC-Chapel Hill’s Craige Deck titled Drawn to Explain on the Ackland’s exhibition page. Read about each diagrammatical element of the installation and the people and disciplines that inspired them.
- Listen to artist Amalia Pica discuss Drawn to Explain in a radio interview that aired on September 20, 2023 on Chapel Hill’s station 97.9 The Hill. The artist highlights the collaborative efforts that went in to creating such a large-scale outdoor work that involved many hands and voices.
- View drone footage of Drawn to Explain on the Ackland’s YouTube channel.
- Read Amalia Pica’s biography and learn more about her practice on the Tanya Bonakdar gallery website.
- Watch this video that takes place in Amalia Pica’s London studio where the artist discusses the roles of communication, resistance, and joy in her work.
- Explore the Corcoran Garage Art Wrap titled Durham in Continuum in nearby Durham, North Carolina. Artist Olalekan Jeyifous’ large-scale work is another local example of a public art installation on a parking garage that highlights elements of the community where it was created.
- When visiting the Ackland, be sure to pick up a Mural Walk self-guide on the F.A.M. Cart in the Museum’s lobby. The self-guided brochure highlights murals on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus and in the surrounding area, including Drawn to Explain.