below above (solo show)
Kunsthalle Zürich, Zurich
4 September – 8 November 2020
Over the past thirty years Californian artist Liz Larner has, together with artists such as Phyllida Barlow, Trisha Donnelly, Nicole Eisenman, Vincent Fecteau and Sarah Lucas, played with our idea of sculpture. Larner’s sculpture revolves around presence and absence – communicating bodies, that is. This is enunciated through the complex, delicate web of traditional and unorthodox perspectives she conjures and her in-depth understanding of forms and materials, their qualities and their heritage. An encounter with Larner’s work is always fruitful and transformational; it is not just an encounter with art history, but equally with beauty, repulsion and eros, with the cosmic, the extra-terrestrial and with humour.
Material and its transformation through form are at the centre – and the periphery – of Larner's often contradictory and challenging oeuvre. Yet hers is a formalist art in a modernist sense, schooled by tradition then disrupted by disbelief. It is as close to psychedelia as it is to Minimalism and it regards research, experimentation, concept and control with the same enthusiasm. For this very reason, Larner continually creates works that redefine what sculpture can be. below above, her exhibition at Kunsthalle Zürich, will include works from 1988 to 2020. above a presentation of selected older works introduce the artist’s broad vocabulary, while below consists of an entirely new work spreading over 500 m2. In this work, Beneath and Above the Horizon, Larner experiments with new materials, recycling and possible developments on an apocalyptic scale. It is, the artist writes, ‘an installation of low forms based on the undulating, tessellating forms of seafoam drifts. These plastic froth drifts will be interspersed with glazed ceramic forms based on 2019 OK, a type of asteroid nicknamed by astronomers as City-killers. If this type of asteroid were to collide with the earth, it would be the equivalent of 10 megatons of TNT. 2019 OK was an undetected asteroid that came very close to crashing to Earth on July 25, 2019.’ Beneath and Above the Horizon opens a new chapter in Larner's already very diverse oeuvre and it will do so on several registers: formally, in terms of material, of scale and as a bleak vision of our and our planet’s future.
‘In a general sense, the work is about being in the world. Different pieces engage different aspects of this, doing it at the same time as being in it. You know, I want the literal, the metaphorical and the theatrical. I want others who are in the room with the work to feel that. To know that they’re thinking about it, but also to have it just be happening to them. When I was younger, one of the first things I found so beautiful about art was that when you’re there in front of it, you can just get it. It comes to you, like ESP [extrasensory perception] (laughter). Sometimes it’s SP without the E, but the extra is important too.’ (Liz Larner, interviewed by Jane Dickson in Bomb, July 1, 2006)