Liz Larner

Don’t put it back like it was (solo show)
SculptureCenter, New York: opening January 2022
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis: 24 April – 4 September 2022

Image: Liz Larner, Copper cube, woven, 1988, photo: def image
Image: Liz Larner, Copper cube, woven, 1988, photo: def image

For the past three decades, Los Angeles–based 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. Larner’s use of materials ranges from the traditional—such as bronze, porcelain, glass, or stainless steel—to the unexpected: bacterial cultures, surgical gauze, sand, or leather. The artist selects each medium for its physical or chemical properties as well as for social and historical associations. Taking direction from these materials, she creates works that can be delicate or aggressive, meticulously crafted or unruly and formless.

Liz Larner: Don’t put it back like it was, co-organized by the Walker and SculptureCenter, New York, is the artist’s largest survey since 2001. Presenting some 30 works produced between 1987 and 2020, the exhibition includes many pieces never before shown. Featured works include Larner’s early experiments with petri dishes and destructive machines, installations that respond to architecture, and more recent wall-based works in ceramic.

As a whole, the exhibition underscores the power and intention of Larner’s work to reconsider objects in physical space as not only a matter of architectural proportions but also as a social, gendered, and psychological construction. As her objects assert themselves in the gallery environment, they reflect a history of sculptural practice and an understanding of physical space that has largely been shaped by (or credited to) men. The experience of viewing 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.

Curator: Mary Ceruti, executive director, Walker Art Center. The New York presentation is organized by Kyle Dancewicz, interim director, SculptureCenter.

Walker Art Center


Liz Larner

below above (solo show)
Kunsthalle Zürich, Zurich
11 June – 21 August 2022

Liz Larner,
Liz Larner, "Hands" (detail), 1993. © Liz Larner, courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles

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)

Kunsthalle Zürich