If “the medium is the message,” as philosopher Marshall McLuhan once said, then the message of Athena LaTocha’s art is death. The ten mixed-media abstractions on display in the artist’s show here were made of earth-—culled from Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery-—along with demolition-site debris, pulverized building materials, and the glass microbeads used in traffic paint, which she sourced from the New York State Department of Transportation. LaTocha’s framed compositions distill mortality into a concentrate, undiluted by any intimations of life—-unless they feature the kind of glass bead called a “seed bead,” perhaps suggesting that the reclamation of wasteland for the sake of one’s creative endeavors makes it a fertile ingredient. That her dirt forms from a graveyard indicates as much, for Green-Wood is not necessarily a fallow and morbid place, considering all the flora and fauna that inhabit it. Was the inseparability of life and death the implicit theme of LaTocha’s exhibition? Her version of Gotham is not exactly “Fun City,” as former mayor John Lindsay characterized New York in 1966. It’s more of a picker’s paradise.
March 02, 2022
Alongside the incorporation of dirt and soil from local sites into her ink washes, repeatedly scraped and worked with tools that include tire shreds and bricks, her art also features impressions taken from rock surfaces that add a geographic and material specificity to her otherwise seemingly abstract investigations of place and the relationship between human occupation and longer histories of the heavily churned earth.
December 15, 2021
In the Wake of… calls attention to the vestiges of its own fabrication, from the gridded fold marks visible in its drawing paper to its reduction of the urban soundscape into isolated rumbles and drones. Like the sedimentary records they evoke, LaTocha’s drawings are a beguiling mix of intent and accident, specificity and abstraction, human reminders of inhuman oblivion.
The New York Times
November 24, 2021
LaTocha’s technique extends landscape painting yet it is not, in any conventional sense, landscape painting at all. “She takes the earth itself and paints with the attributes of the planet,” said the artist Howardena Pindell, who taught her in the M.F.A. program at Stony Brook University in the mid-00s and remains a friend. “It’s a great leap forward for landscape.”
Art in America
February 01, 2019
New commissions engaged the local context. For Ozark (Shelter in Place), Athena LaTocha took impressions in lead of the natural rock face in a nearby national park, land rich with Indigenous history from one-time habitation to its position on the Trail of Tears. She attached these molded lead sheets to her wall-size painting of ink and earth on paper.
Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette
October 06, 2018
One painting, Ozark (Shelter in Place) by Athena LaTocha, was begun in Northwest Arkansas earlier this year when the artist spent a week in the bluff shelters of the Pea Ridge National Military Park making drawings and lead impressions of the rock.
September 05, 2018
Art News announces fall preview of the most promising museum shows and biennials around the world, including Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
This deliberately broad exhibition, which is being billed as the first major survey of contemporary Native art, operates with the same guiding philosophy. Bringing together work by 80 artists, among them Kay WalkingStick, Athena LaTocha, and Shan Goshorn, and encompassing a vast array of mediums and approaches, the show aims to turn the spotlight on a slice of recent art history—a distinctly Indigenous perspective—that’s too long been omitted by museums.