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LORENA  LOHR

 

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For more than a decade, the British-Canadian artist Lorena Lohr has been travelling the American Southwest by bus and train, documenting the fleeting landscapes and the distinct character of the region’s built environment. Lohr’s work takes in a variety of artistic disciplines. As a photographer, she captures everything from motels and bars to parking lots and patches of waste ground, focusing on unexpected and often uncanny aspects of the commonplace and mundane in the places she visits without ironic detachment or comment.

Though she does not limit herself to any particular subject, her photographs are characterised by recurring motifs: electrical wiring, colourful drinks and details of the bodywork of automobiles are just some of the hallmarks that stretch across her series and artist’s books. Language, as glimpsed in commercial signage, is another leitmotif of her photographs: generic phrases that evoke an exoticism at odds with their surroundings feature heavily, both contributing the visual richness of her compositions and hinting at hope, longing and isolation. Shot on 35mm colour film with compact and inexpensive cameras, Lohr’s images stay true to the DIY spirit that characterises much of what she chooses to photograph, underlining the beauty and individuality of overlooked or neglected spaces that would otherwise go unnoticed.

To these ends, she has created a number of limited edition artist’s books, the most recent of which is Crystal Sands (2022). The pictures in these publications do not expressly seek to romanticise or glamourise. Instead, they celebrate the idiosyncratic traces of human involvement on a given area and the incidental layers of narrative that build up over time in the places she visits. Aside from likenesses glimpsed in adverts or on signs or murals, Lohr’s photography almost entirely eschews representations of people. As a painter, however, she places the female form at the forefront of her compositions.

The oil-on-board works comprising her ‘Desert Nudes’ series (2014 – present) depict female figures in richly-detailed desert landscapes, and at first glance appears to draw on kitsch-adjacent imagery. Yet on closer inspection, it is clear that these meticulously-rendered compositions are equally informed by older art historical sources. Lohr has long been interested in the art of the Northern Renaissance, particularly paintings depicting Biblical scenes in the deserts of the Middle East. Most of these artists – the possible exception being Van Eyck – would never have seen a desert, and their fantastical renderings of the barren landscapes would have been primarily derived from written sources. And while many treasures from the Spanish New World were flooding through the port of Antwerp, their visions of America – as an idea, by no means absent from their imaginations – would have been altogether more alien. Lohr’s paintings thus transplant the iconic (in the religious sense) or mythological imagery to the American southwest.

The imagined female figures in these paintings are not, however, mythological beings; nor are the images themselves primarily referential works. A self-taught painter, Lohr takes an intuitive approach to the discipline, drawing on her own experiences of travel and observation but not questioning where an idea for any specific composition might come from until the image begins to take shape. The paintings develop over weeks, months and often even years. As physical objects, they therefore speak of countless hours of deliberation, and can be read as palimpsests: much like the arrangements, buildings and landscapes Lohr photographs, they contain layer upon layer of often hidden meaning and intent.

This is not the only link between Lohr’s work in her two primary artistic disciplines. Both her paintings and in her photographs can be read as testaments to the power of escapist fantasy and unfulfilled dreams. Whether glimpsed in a photograph of a faded 1970s Tiki bar interior, or through the artist’s instinctive paintings of nudes in extraordinary desert settings, the principle applies across her diverse spectrum of work.

EXHIBITIONS

June 2024 – The Golden Ratio, group show, Soho Revue, London, UK

May 2024 – Desert Nudes, painting show presented by Soho Revue at Future Fair, New York, USA

2024 WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE’RE DOING (BUT WE DO KNOW WHY) – The First 5 Years of Rough Trade Books, group show, La Fab, Foundation Agnès B, Paris, France

2023 Desert Nudes, solo painting show, Soho Revue, London, UK

2023 Scenic Views Magazine Issue 4 Launch at Dover Street Market, Feb 2023

2022 – 23 Night, Light, group show, Cob Gallery, London, UK

2022 Domestic Evil III, group show, Soccer Club Club, Chicago, USA

2019-20 Tonight Lounge, solo show, Cob Gallery, London, UK

2019 Ocean Sands, solo show, Matches Fashion, 5 Carlos Place, London, UK

2019 Horizon Avenue, group show, Photo Saint Germain, Paris, France

2018 Photo London, solo presentation of the series Texas Blue presented by Cob Gallery, London, UK

2018 A Shade of Pale, group show, The Store x 180 Strand, London, UK 

2016 Lorena Lohr, solo show, Claire de Rouen Books, London, UK

2015 Ocean Sands,  solo show at The Gallery, Liverpool, part of the International Photography Festival, Liverpool, UK

2015 Ocean Sands, solo show, Cob Gallery, London, UK 

2013 Photo Show, solo show, Rochelle School, London, UK

SELECTED PRESS

Far Out Magazine – Lorena Lohr: Capturing feminine dialogue with the American south-west, 2024

Art Plugged – Lorena Lohr presents her Desert Nudes series at Future Fair New York, 2024

i-D Magazine – Lorena Lohr paints nude muses in the Arizona desert, 2023

Flaunt Magazine – Lorena Lohr: Shooting Impermanence – Interview, 2021

AnOther Magazine – The Best Art and Photography Books to Buy This Summer, 2021

AnOther Magazine, Lorena Lohr’s Enchanting, Evocative Desert Nudes Paintings, 2021

Self Service Magazine, Issue 54 – portfolio – print

W Magazine, Volume 1, 2021 – Best Performances, print

W Magazine, Volume 1, 2021 – Best Performances, online

Booooooom – Photographer Spotlight, Lorena Lohr

Vagabond City – Interview, 2020

The Brooklyn Rail, July – August 2020 – Book review of Tonight Lounge by Sarah Monoz

Wallpaper* – Photo Finish : The Photobooks Worth a Second Look

Elephant Magazine – Lorena Lohr’s Intimate Portraits of Memphis Reveal a Country in Transition 

AnOther Magazine, Lorena Lohr’s Beautiful Photographs of Memphis and the Midwest – Interview with text by Belle Hutton

The Week, review of the show Tonight Lounge, December 2019

AnOther Magazine – Introducing Scenic Views, the Interiors Magazine with a Difference, 2019

Photomonitor – Texas Blue reviewed by Edmée Lepercq, 2018

Wallpaper*- The 7 breakthrough artists to discover at Photo London 2018

SLEEK Magazine – 14 Stirring Snapshots to See at Photo London, 2018

AnOther , Lorena Lohr’s Hazy Photographs Documenting El Paso, Texas, feature, 2017

Fisheye Magazine – Lorena Lohr: Ocean Sands, 2017 

AnOther Man, editorial, Spring / Summer 2017 Issue

PRINT Issue 2

I-D, Lorena Lohr’s photography explores America’s sun-bleached South West, 2015

Newfound Journal – Lorena Lohr: Desert Moon

Dazed, 2015

Paper Journal: Lorena Lohr, 201

Hot and Cool, Issue 6 – Broadway Nights, feature, 2013

Hot and Cool, Issue 3 – feature

El Paso, Lorena Lohr, 2017 – 2018