For the past three decades, Los Angelesbased artist Liz Larner (US, b. 1960) has explored the material and social possibilities of sculpture in innovative and surprising ways. Today, she is one of the most influential artists of her generation engaged with the medium. Larners use of materials ranges from the traditionalbronze, porcelain, glass, and steelto the unexpected: bacterial cultures, surgical gauze, sand, and leather. All are chosen for their physical properties, the historical associations they hold, or the emotional responses they invite. Taking direction from these materials, she creates works that can be delicate or aggressive, meticulously crafted or unruly and formless.
Liz Larner: Dont put it back like it was, co-organized by the Walker
and SculptureCenter, New York, is the artists largest survey since 2001. Presenting works produced between 1987 and 2021, the Walker presentation expands upon the SculptureCenter exhibition adding several sculptures, many of which have never before shown in the United States. Featured works include Larners early experiments with biochemical processes and destructive machines, installations that freely adapt to or challenge the architecture of the space, and more recent wall- and floor-based works in ceramic.
As a whole, the exhibition underscores the power and intention of Larners work to reconsider objects in physical space as not only a matter of architectural proportions but also as a social, gendered, and psychological constructions. As her objects assert themselves in the gallery environment, they rebel against a legacy of sculptural practice and an understanding of physical space that has largely been shaped by (or credited to) men. Encountering these works compels an awareness of our own embodied presence and relationship to this space.
The exhibition examines ways in which Larner has investigated both the material potential of sculpture and its relationship to the viewer, bringing forward key themes that have occupied her work: the dynamic between power and instability, the tension between surface and form, and the interconnectedness of objects to our bodies.
Works such as Corner Basher (1988) and Orchid, Buttermilk, Penny (1987) call up destruction and decay as creative forces. Sculptures made in pliable fabric or metal, such as Bird in Space (1989) or Guest (2004), physically adapt to and alter our perception of the architectural spaces in which they are shown. The work 2 as 3 and Some, Too (19971998)made from mulberry paper, steel, and watercolorresembles two interlocking cubes, but like a freehand drawing, its lines have collapsed and softened into a relaxed form that resists rigid geometry or an appearance of stability. V (planchette) (2013), an aluminum form covered in painted paper, appears to shape-shift as we move around it. The exhibition also includes a selection of Larners more recent ceramic works of the past decade, in which she has embraced the unpredictability in the processes of shaping, firing, and glazing to create surfaces that allude to both landscape and abstract painting as well as elements found in nature.
Dont put it back like it was is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, published by Dancing Foxes Press, which includes contributions by exhibition curator Mary Ceruti, executive director, Walker Art Center; Connie Butler, chief curator at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Catherine Liu, author and professor of film and media studies at the University of California, Irvine; and poet, playwright, and performance artist Ariana Reines.