The Secret Minerals
Alise Spinella
Opening reception Saturday 04.08.23

“Down here, too, the boundaries between life and not-life are less clear.”
--Robert Macfarlane, Underland: A Deep Time Journey

I’ve been thinking a lot about what lies invisibly under the surface. What is present in the landscape, but unseen deep beneath the topsoil, the mountain face, the forest floor. I lost family during the pandemic, and over time, my grief settled below the surface, too. Tectonic shifts within me had significantly changed the underlying terrain: the body as its own mysterious landscape.

These new paintings explore what might be witnessed if we could travel dark underground, down through the strata, to find the hidden things forming within the land itself: minerals slowly pushing themselves together, little deaths and births and transformations. Fossils of old prayers and older griefs, decomposing thresholds, crystallizing rocks. The fertile soil as it metabolizes the past into the next living thing.


Elephant Art Space is pleased to present The Secret Minerals, an exhibition of new abstract paintings by Los Angeles–based artist Alise Spinella. These intimate works trace a journey of transmutation—both in the psychic registers and the earthly realm. In each, we’re offered a glimpse into another world, with the central image of a grid recurring as an almost figurative presence. Here the grid doesn’t represent a rule-based system but instead a structure breaking down and coming loose.

Within the dark-colored paintings, there are tiny bursts of brightness, specks of neon glowing in the shadows like buried jewels. In Opal (Shedding), luminous purple lines spin into a circular shape that is at once solidifying and melting into a blue-black abyss. In Glacier, one of the few paintings with a lighter palette, lines have broken free of the grid altogether, as if frozen in the moment of their dispersal; the vibrating lines snake like cracks or seams through a pale frontier.

In Spinella’s practice, drawing and painting are inextricably interwoven, with a wide variety of materials and techniques used throughout: acrylic glazed over pastels and graphite; gouache and charcoal erased with water, leaving ghostly imprints; thick, porcelain-smooth paint mediums sanded down and built up. Through these repetitive processes, each piece acquires a patina of layers that alludes to the passage of time and lends the work a translucent, otherworldly quality. And always, the hand-drawn line is at the fore, mapping the contours of the unknown.

Alise Spinella was born in Sacramento, California, and raised in Koyasan, Japan. She received an MFA from CalArts, a BA in Psychology and Computer Science from UCLA, and a BFA from RISD. Her artwork has been shown both nationally and internationally in New York, Chicago, Montreal, Toronto, and Rome, and most recently at Fellows of Contemporary Art (FOCA) in Los Angeles. She is an alumna of residency fellowships at the Vermont Studio Center and Arteles Creative Center, Finland, and was awarded a California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists in 2015. She lives and works in Los Angeles.

Open Saturdays 4/8 through 4/29, 12 to 4pm or by appointment.

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