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Lisa Sanditz, “Sock City”

Algal bloom results when bodies of standing water, overladen with phosphates from industrial production, are choked with an excess of algae. As evident an indicator of environmental degradation as this phenomenon is, it’s also insidiously attractive, resulting in surfaces of lush greens that give an illusion of abundance. Lisa Sanditz’s paintings, which explore the proliferation of single-industry towns in China, make up a study in cultural values that ultimately asks: Can something of beauty be recognized as such even when there’s a catch? What is right in a world where one person’s gain is clearly another’s loss?


The title of each piece refers to the manufacturing specialty of the locale Sanditz takes as her subject. The resulting images are often a mash-up of trip-induced hues with the space and intuitive delicacy of Chinese brush painting, set inside factories or industrial landscapes. Xiamen, LED City, or “The Miami of China,” for instance, bears a washy swath of clouds in front of the setting sun and dusky light settling over a scintillating mountain city.


Sanditz’s work is undeniably crowd-pleasing in its brilliant use of color, and she has a great excuse for this beauty: It’s the double-edged sword that forces us to balance our enjoyment of these scenes with our understanding that they represent our exploitation of the developing world. Such compositions as Oil Painting Village, which subtly probes the idea of art as another item in a production line, inject a sense of self-deprecating humor. It’s refreshing to see work that’s at once a truly aesthetic experience and a political statement.


Written by T.J. Carlin