At Ogden Contemporary Arts (OCA), which just received the Utah Cultural Alliance’s 2022 Outstanding Cultural Contribution Award, “Survey: The West” is an exhibition comprised of the geometric design and ethnography of Ya La’ford .
La’ford is an internationally acclaimed painter, installation artist, muralist, social practice artist, and educator from New York City and, in May, was the OCA’s first Artist-in-Residence. His works are, according to his website, a desire to “(recreate) the connections of a space and the channels of divine intervention that preserve our destinies as individuals and as a community” – but here with the elements added from the West and, specifically, Utah.
A walk through the exhibit greets you with something impactful at every corner, all embellished with La’ford’s familiar linear patterns and haunting textural composition, but this time abundant in the colors found here in Utah. , visuals of Utah wildlife, and even works created using materials. found directly outside the OCA, according to those present at the start of his residency.
Neutrals and inclusive greens are key when encompassing Utah’s diverse landscape — but many of La’ford’s pieces also feature shades of blue, some of which are reminiscent of the color of the sky behind the mountains. Others, like the brilliant blue light shining behind one of the larger installations, make you feel like you’re looking into a deep lake.
Some rooms shimmer with a metallic composition and reflect the light of the halls, while others are matte and embody the red rock so specific to this region. The shapes of the smaller scale pieces open the door to interpretation with their dispersed yet still collective placement, reminiscent of birds and trees at first sight and using a less vibrant variation of the cohesive color palette.
Without even touching the work, you can imagine the texture under your feet, due to the inescapable recognition of the earth. As you leave, you feel like you’ve hiked the most beautiful trail you’ve ever hiked.
If a Utahn saw this facility anywhere else, it could very well make them homesick.
Each piece is so uniquely Utah that you’re forced to see your surroundings through a new lens, which was apparently part of La’ford’s lens. “Her art, she hopes, is a universal language that will connect the Utah community, inspiring us to renew our perspective of the West and reconsider our relationship to the boundaries shaped in the landscape by geological forces or defined by the early pioneers”, wall description reads. “The work embodies La’ford’s personal exploration of western land, culture and history, emphasizing Ogden as the focal point and symbolic doorway to his experience. — aligning with our city’s historic reputation as the “Gateway to the West”.
The exhibition will continue until July 24.
Ogden Contemporary Arts is located at 455 25th St. Ogden, UT 84401.
(Originally published in 15 Bytes Art Magazine)