The Last Unmapped Territory: Leora Lutz’s Summum Bonum

                     The sky.  Il cielo. The great blue yonder. Underneath it, human beings pay bills, change their oil, get their teeth cleaned.  Above it, some say, the heavens stretch infinitely.  For human beings wanting to reach their “summum bonum,” or their greatest potential, the sky, if only metaphorically, is their desired destination. And yet, this point that marks such a delineation between physical and celestial, the mundane and the divine, remains intangible and elusive.

Leora Lutz explores man’s relationship to the sky, and his pursuit of lofty goals, in her exhibition Summum Bonum: Mapping Lines and Making Holes. Taking inspiration from Plato’s dialogue “Timaeus,” and his theories on the creation of the universe, Lutz presents a series of abstract aerial landscapes.  Many of these are Lutz’ own previous landscapes that she has covered in black paint, either completely or leaving small geometric patterns visible; reminiscent of the night sky and its many constellations.

Lutz has expressed her fascination by the ephemeral lines that occur in nature, manmade or otherwise, such as the trajectory of a bullet between the gun and its target, the way a block of ice becomes a puddle on the floor, and, in particular, the path of an airplane between its two ports.  Also a poet, Lutz marks various flight paths by threading abstract words along their routes onto her canvases, a process she calls language mapping.

What is striking about this exhibition overall is its sparseness, a line of language here, a geometric shape there, that affords the viewer such space to draw his or her own conclusions.  While Lutz incorporates the tangible binds of chains, ropes and thread, she also punctures tin cans full of holes.  For every visible mark of order, there a space just next to it where anything is possible and can be created, each one reinforcing the other’s existence cyclically.  In this way, perhaps the exhibition’s centerpiece is an interpretation of the night sky in Greece in 360 BCE, the year “Timaeus” was written, an 8-foot installation wherein Lutz puts the stars onto ropes and pulls them down onto a perforated fence.  The sky meeting the earth, the ethereal converging with the physical, a border that allows movement in and out of it.  Perhaps this middle point is where we find the greatest good, the summum bonum.


Marybeth Connaughton