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Exhibition presents works in which indispensable assistant Norm Laich has collaborated
Kay Rosen, Installation view of Various Strata, 1996/1998-99 in Kay Rosen: lifeli[k]e,Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, November 15, 1998 – February 14, 1999. Wall painting. Dimensions variable. Courtesy the artist.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles will present This Brush for Hire: Norm Laich and Many Other Artists, a unique survey of an array of world-renowned artists and one indispensable assistant—the Los Angeles-based artist, sign painter, and fabricator Norm Laich. Organized by artists Meg Cranston and John Baldessari, the exhibition will consist of paintings and graphic installations fabricated by Laich over the past three decades, with an emphasis on artists based in Los Angeles. Laich has been a key contributor to the production of many iconic, contemporary works by a range of artists including Ed Ruscha, Paul McCarthy, Allen Ruppersberg, and Jenny Holzer, among many others. This Brush for Hire will be on view June 3–September 2, 2018.

The selected works in the exhibition include paintings and objects by John Baldessari, John Boskovich, Karen Carson, Kim Fisher, Daniel Joseph Martinez, and Alexis Smith; large-scale wall paintings by Scott Greiger, Kay Rosen, and Stephen Prina; graphic installations by Amanda Ross-Ho and Lawrence Weiner; and archival materials from Michael Asher, the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), Barbara Kruger, and Renée Petropoulos. This Brush For Hire will also include two major installations: Mike Kelley’s Proposal for the Decoration of an Island of Conference Rooms (with Copy Room) for an Advertising Agency Designed by Frank Gehry (1991–92)—which has not been presented since 1992—and a new, site-specific work by Arturo Herrera in ICA LA’s Courtyard.

This Brush For Hire will offer an account of Laich’s emergence as a sign painter, acknowledge his many collaborations with artists and his place within contemporary art, and reflect on the role of the assistant in the history of art. Of particular interest will be the question of how conceptual artists reconfigured this role, and how professionals such as Laich have facilitated the demand for a non-expressive and neutral mode of artistic communication. Laich has a rare ability to fully immerse himself in another artist’s work, seamlessly occupying different stylistic modes. Curator Meg Cranston explains that Laich is able to achieve “a sort of flatness” that is rare among fabricators. “His gift,” she says, “is his ability to disappear.”

In the 1980s, questions of authorship became prominent: Are artists alone responsible for the production of their work? Informed by Minimalism, in which sculptures were often outsourced to technicians, some artists came to think that painters could also operate as managers. It was a liberating concept, if not a particularly new one. Artists since the Renaissance have employed assistants. “The surprising thing was that in the ‘80s artists admitted it,” Baldessari and Cranston write. “The surprising thing now is that we still care.” The exhibition seeks to address questions of authorship and collaboration, and explore the relationship between an artist’s original idea and the hired hands—or brushes—that help realize it.

A documentary film about Norm Laich and his work as an invisible hand for other contemporary artists will be on view in the exhibition. Directed and produced by Los Angeles filmmaker Pauline Stella Sanchez, the film provides an intimate glance at Laich’s work and friendships with a number of local and national artists. Featured in the film will be short interviews conducted by Cranston with Laich, John Baldessari, Scott Greiger, Barbara Kruger, Stephen Prina, Gary Simmons, Alexis Smith, Lawrence Weiner, and more.

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