January 20 – March 28, 2022
City of Long Island
SculptureCenter’s first object Liz Larner: Don’t put it back like before is a ten foot high steel rod with a hanging ball and chain. The looming structure stands upright in a corner with white walls and is supported by four metal struts with a motor at the base. Visitors can turn on this electric motor at close range – at any speed – and watch the rod spin continuously, with each revolution lifting the ball and chain to pulverize gallery walls. These harsh, repetitive impacts simultaneously create a hostile and irresistibly hypotonic encounter. We want to engage in rhythmic decay, no matter how threatening. corner kick (1988) serves as a sentinel-like entry point to the 34-year-long investigation of Larner’s career through approximately 30 objects. Entropic, phenomenological, gendered and ecological ideas are all presented to show an exceptional sculptural practice that might otherwise seem disparate. But the strength of the interconnected concepts and form present Larner as an endlessly fascinating, endearing, and unique sculptor who traverses the historical movements of art with composure.
Enrolled at CalArts in the mid-1980s, Larner theoretically worked as a photographer during a resurgence of painting and postmodern appropriation when sculpture was not in vogue. Larner’s initial study led her to create experimental concoctions in petri dishes, beakers and jars which she would later document. Eventually, pseudoscientific cultures took on more interest as objects themselves, which led to a lifelong transition to sculpture. Orchid, Buttermilk, Penny (1987), the first work exhibited, contains everything referenced in the title in two small Petri dishes. The left dish compresses an orchid flower in a pool of buttermilk, with a half-soaked penny on the petal. The vivid color and sensuality of the pink orchid petals are accentuated against the dish on the right, where the same three things have been left to decay for nine years into a pale brown mush with the penny standing in its oxidized bubble resembling mushrooms. . Each time the job is displayed, a new petri dish containing the same components replaces the left side, and the last petri dish is saved. This bacterial cycle embodies Larner’s infatuation with chance reactions, decomposition, and objectivity, which ripples through a variety of materials.
Surgical gauze, false eyelashes, ceramics, bacteria, and steel are examples of the artist’s lexicon that may at first seem disharmonious, even haphazard. However, the non-chronological approach to presenting the exhibition, with no didactic wall text in the galleries, creates an immediate opportunity to perceive meaningful connections between various works. The centre’s converted industrial space also allows each sculpture room to breathe while enabling such associations. bird in space (1989) occupies the largest area of the open gallery, hovering above several other works, and consists of a parallel row of nylon ropes floating in a thin arch suspended overhead by a supporting rope protruding in diagonal of the walls. Down, standing eight feet, V (planchette) (2013) features a large purple abstract form in aluminium. Although very different in material and composition, the two sculptures create similar experiences that remind us of our bodies in space. Here, each work also makes an obvious allusion, one to the seances and the other winking at Brancusi’s famous series of birds in space.
Larner has been considered in the context of the post-minimal art and male-dominated installation of his contemporaries. These reductive readings forget how the artist exploits the history of art, almost like the raw material itself, the references of which can constitute the composition of a work. Eyelash mat (1989), a thin, three-meter-tall mat covered in layers of false eyelashes, simultaneously appeals to Louise Nevelson’s use of false eyelashes, Bridget Riley’s geometric patterns, and the sultry but unsettling texture of the cup of tea. fur tea from Méret Oppenheim. The optical effects generated by the light hitting the serial group of fine black hairs create a stunning and lively movement. Gender is most evident in this sculpture: its allusions and construction emphasize that objectivity and phenomenology can be imbued with femininity, providing a powerful contrast to methods of artistic creation normally associated with institutional masculinity, such as the draped felt sculptures of Robert Morris.
In another media pivot that showcases Larner’s versatility, ceramics have mostly consumed the last decade of his production. Perfectly installed on the long walls of the SculptureCenter’s basement hallway, Larner’s series of clay slabs testify to the preoccupations of the beginning of his career as well as a new emphasis on the treatment of the flat surfaces of the works of a manner reminiscent of abstract painting. A slab roller produces these sculptures, making elongated round pieces of clay about two by three feet. The surface of each slab is coated with vibrant colors of epoxy or reflective glaze, some containing stones and minerals embedded in the clay, creating fascinating geological and cosmic abstractions. Clay firing, a process in which the artist surrenders control, becomes the perfect method to embody Larner’s penchant for unpredictability, experimentation, and environmental concerns. And, as in the rest of the exhibition, Larner’s ceramics become another facet of deceptively dissimilar elements that come together harmoniously and represent an artist who marvelously defies classification.