Liz Larner

Selected Works

hard bubble

2021
plastic (clear)
59 x 208.3 x 36.8 cm.; 23 1/4 x 82 x 14 1/2 in.

“Larner’s current work with plastic refuse is a continuation of her ongoing investigation into the aesthetic possibilities of non-traditional materials  –  recalling Eva Hesse. Collected over three years, she uses these waste items to explore the definitive qualities of formalist sculpture  – interconnecting line and material substance, volume and mass, to create positive and negative space. […] Larner has transitioned from exploring the aesthetic possibilities of natural materials to exploring the aesthetic possibilities of plastic materials which endanger natural life.”

Lita Barrie, ‘Liz Larner: The Horrific Beauty of Plastic Polluted Sea Foam and Asteroids Meeting on Earth’, White Hot Magazine, 2021

Installation view: Liz Larner, Aspen Art Museum, Colorado, 2016

Photo: Tony Prikryl

“[…] the wall reliefs […] generate complex chromatic and material worlds, their surfaces oscillating between earthly primitiveness and great refinement. The transience of Larner’s early bacterial cultures freezes here, in full colour, into intricately structured glazes and layers of epoxy resin. As with Fontana’s and Jorn’s best works, ceramic in her hands becomes a special combination of painting and sculpture, embodying the qualities of both worlds.
 Approaching ceramics from a background of conceptual analysis, Larner has always made the case for a deep study of the material and its special characteristics. She may now have arrived at the point at which—beyond the contradictions that always held a special significance in her work—she has achieved naturalness that allows her a virtuosic play of form, material, and colour. With what other material could this have been possible?”

P. Pakesch, ‘Material and Painting in Sculpture - On the Ceramic Works of Liz Larner’, in Liz Larner, exh. cat., Berlin: Galerie Max Hetzler Holzwarth Publications, 2016, p. 21

viii (subduction)

2015
ceramic, epoxy

52.1 × 85.7 × 24.1 cm.; 20 1/2 x 33 3/4 x 9 1/2 in.
Photo: Joshua White

“Some artworks are so porous towards meaning, so sensitive to atmospheric conditions and the fingerprints of discourse, that we must be careful what words we use on them. Language can indelibly tarnish objects. Liz Larner’s sculptures have always been hard to talk about with sufficient delicacy, none more so than the ceramic tablets. These objects seem disarmingly simple. Each is a hunk of clay rolled out to a fat finger’s thickness, fired and coated with pigment and glossy epoxy resin. As you move through a room in which the sculptures are hung, it might indicate/seem as if they are coming alive; their reflective surfaces broadcast their dents and cracked edges, and iridescent pigments cause them to flash, dramatically, between colours—from teal to sage green to rose pink to inky black and brown—from one angle to the next.
Most significantly, however, only one is a straightforwardly flat panel. Some have vertical, V-shaped indentations, while others crease outwards from behind. Three are what Larner terms ‘subduction’: slabs that have been cut, or broken, in the middle and then mounted so that one half slightly overlaps the other. There is shadow, then daylight, between the two halves as you move around the sculpture.
She assigns each category of work a title according to its form: mantle (2013) is a flat, outrageously pink and purple lozenge, while viii (caesura) (2014) puckers up to reveal a turquoise-painted crack. Between the two terms, we begin to perceive Larner’s fusion of geology and poetry in her own conception of these works. Subduction, too, is a geological word (for the moment when one tectonic plate moves beneath its neighbour).”

J. Griffin, ‘Liz Larner’, in Frieze, no. 162, April 2014

Public Jewel

2015
stainless steel, bronze, and minerals
447 x 162.6 x 180.3 cm.; 176 x 64 x 71 in.
Permanent installation at the Byron Rogers Federal Building, Denver

“[…] The sculpture [Public Jewel, 2015] is a kind of man-made compost rock, made up of hundreds of Colorado rocks, fossils, and minerals, caged by a rectangular cuboid that stands on its own extended legs. Larner, long interested in environmental sustainability theories such as permaculture, found the process of making Public Jewel deeply enriching and expansive. The rock cut-offs, byproducts of testing and assembling, which remained in her studio, found their way onto the ceramic slabs.”

J. Porter, ‘X Quantities’, in Liz Larner, exh. cat., Aspen Art Museum, New York; New York: Karma, 2016, p. 41

X

2013
mirror polished cast stainless steel
138.7 x 303.4 x 238.8 cm.; 54 5/8 x 119 1/2 x 94 in.
Installation: Liz Larner, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 2015

X is the name of a recent sculpture by Liz Larner. The title is illustrative but ambiguous, for although the sculpture is in fact shaped like an X, its expected geometry is disrupted by twisting irregularities and curving arms that lend the work its low-slung, spidery crouch. The form was modelled digitally by ‘draping' an X over an object. […] Where it meets the ground […] X tapers elegantly. This carefully calibrated touchdown (or, perhaps, take-off) gives the work a dynamic energy: even as it appears on the verge of springing skyward, it amiably huddles in on itself—and the viewer. This sculptural embrace, however, brushes up against the fact of X’s dazzling surface complexity. The mirror-polished lustre dissolves the sculpture’s visual coherence, but at the same time reflects its surroundings, including the viewer. We see our image, but in the encounter we lose sight of planes and edges. X simultaneously materialises and dematerialises, causing a disrupted phenomenological experience. X embodies Larner’s fundamental belief that sculpture can confront the real while it represents it, that it can combine illusion and reality. […]”

J. Porter, ‘X Quantities’, in Liz Larner, exh. cat., Aspen Art Museum, New York; New York: Karma, 2016, p. 27

inflexion

2013
ceramic, epoxy, pigment
47 x 93.3 x 26.7 cm.; 18 1/2 x 36 3/4 x 10 1/2 in.
Collection: Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

“Larner’s distinctive approach to form and surface, to material and concept, is also evident in a series of ceramic slab sculptures made between 2009 and 2011. A significant departure from the smiles. These ruffle-edged works are prompted with coils and hang on the wall. Their shapes are the result of draping a thin slab of clay over an object to create uneven surfaces and somewhat petal-like, ragged-edged shapes. They are mostly scaled, on average about 24 inches wide and as tall, and hang on the wall from a cleat whose shallow width creates space between the work and the support.”


J. Porter, ‘X Quantities’, in Liz Larner, exh. cat., Aspen Art Museum, New York; New York: Karma, 2016, p. 35

RWBs

2005
aluminium tubes, steel and nylon aircraft cable, brass and chrome plated steel padlocks, natural and synthetic fabric
208.3 x 297.2 x 297.2 cm.; 82 x 117 x 117 in.
Collection: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

“[…] Larner compiles and condenses words, materials, and processes to generate her abstract works. This approach is heightened by the way she connects, through an overarching theme, seemingly disparate materials and scales. This quasi-narrative tendency was brought into sharp focus in the artist’s 2005 exhibition at Regen Projects in Los Angeles. […] The exhibition according to the artist, was inspired in part by Joan Didion’s essay collection ‘Where I Was From’. […] Didion’s recognition of a sort of California spell doesn’t come crashing down so much as it evaporates into thin air. The ‘crossing’ is the story we all labour under, the one that defines us: how did we get from there to here? This strain of ‘Manifest Destiny’ resides, as well, in Larner’s tour de force sculpture RWBs (2005). […]
The title is a plural acronym for red, white, and blue, colours symbolic of liberty as much as anything else you want to throw at it: nationalism, individualism, bellicosity, pride, community. RWBs is composed of aluminium tubes adorned with assorted red, white, and blue fabrics signifying ‘everything from NASCAR to flag-draped coffins' torqued and tangled and bound together by padlocks. The materiality of RWBs is spectacularly fraught. Aluminium tubes, if you’ll recall, were the George W. Bush administration’s ‘irrefutable evidence’ of the nuclear weapons program that sanctioned the US invasion of Iraq. This miscarriage of the facts underscored Larner’s own thinking about the ‘truth and lies of material and how often the truth of history comes down to an object, a material, a thing.’ Larner’s use of material and colour was never more symbolic and transformative.”

J. Porter, ‘X Quantities’, in Liz Larner, exh. cat., Aspen Art Museum, New York; New York: Karma, 2016, p. 33

Guest

2004

gold plated bronze
dimensions variable

“The multiple versions of Guest, installed in different locations in which it assumes different shapes, playfully carries forward the possibility for responsive sculpture. Other contemporaries use light sensitive materials to make heliotropic work, or digital media to push the boundaries of generative programming in making art that interacts with its environment, actual or virtual. But what an excellent and witty move it is to explore the implications of new technologies through the industrial and/or the old. The ‘Guest’ sculptures are stainless steel plated with precious metal, either silver or gold. Their chain like sections enable them to be draped, compressed or extended according to the architecture around them, yet they hold the clarity of the shapes of their component rings, some squared, some oval. They are nomadic, being without a single space, but thereby inhabiting many. If the gold alludes to the California in which they were made, it is only plated, ironising the Californian myth, from the Gold Rush of 1848-59 to the dream of the Golden State, now perilously near bankruptcy. Another irony is that the nickname of ‘The Golden State’ was in a highly traditionalist and consecrative move actually made official in 1968, the year of the student revolutions that singled irrevocable developments in many fields, especially and perhaps most durably in the art of the avant-garde."

P. Florence, ‘Outer Space, Embodied Sense. Two Meditations and Then Some (Futures)’, in Two or Three or Something, exh. cat., Kunsthaus Graz, Graz; Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2006, p. 76

2001

2001

fibreglass, stainless steel, automotive paint
365.8 x 365.8 x 365.8 cm.; 144 x 144 x 144 in.

“It is interesting to see how Larner, in her very unique sensitivity, began to set herself apart from other protagonists of contemporary sculpture, finding a position all of her own in the process. She delved deeply into the materials, eliciting idiosyncratic narratives, often with wit, sometimes a certain drama. Her dramaturgical breadth became as extensive as the variety of materials examined. The tensions between the performative and the investigative were intensified by an enduring ambivalence toward the figurative. Raw materials were pitted against references and visual representations. The cast/replica became important along with artificial, sometimes industrially produced forms and bodies. Larner’s work dealt with surfaces, their color and substance—an examination that reached a high point with 2001: an oversized artificial crystal that appears like some strange object out of science fiction. The artist painted this piece with a lacquer that changes color when the viewer moves.”


P. Pakesch, ‘Material and Painting in Sculpture - On the Ceramic Works of Liz Larner’, in Liz Larner, exh. cat., Berlin: Galerie Max Hetzler and Holzwarth Publications, 2016, p. 19

Two or Three or Something

1998–1999
steel, paper, and watercolour
267.7 × 164.8 × 163.8 cm.; 105 3/8 × 64 7/8 × 64 1/2 in.
Collection: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee 2001.31

Two or Three or Something […] a monumental sculpture […] playfully and ironically rebels against modernist tradition and dogmas, based upon formal stability, purity, rigidity as well as predictability. It does question such a conversation of definitions and it points out to the new interpretations of sculptural and painterly works as challenged by the innovative (abnormal) spatial conditions. It introduces an open field of multiple possibilities, cartographed by the nuances of applied technique which set up a form in constant motion and dynamics, leading towards hybrid and rhizomatic constructions. This is a territory of transformative tensions where depth competes with the surface, density is complementary confronted by a dominant exteriority. With its inert ’alternativeness’, introducing a sort of ‘third mutated subjectivity’ Two or Three or Something suggests a masquerade, an almost carnivalesque play with an established order and convention through a reconsidered structure of elemental forms, shapes and personages.”


A. Budak, ‘The Dynamics of Something. On Mirroring, Varying and Sensing in the Work of Maria Lassnig and Liz Larner’, in Two or Three or Something: Maria Lassnig, Liz Larner, exh. cat., Kunsthaus Graz, Graz; Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2006, p. 16

2 as 3 and Some, Too

1997-98
Mulberry paper, steel and watercolour
284.5 x 348 x 241.3 cm.; 112 x 137 x 95 in.
Collection: The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Purchase in memory of Stuart Regen with funds provided by Thea Westreich and Ethan Wagner, Pam and Dick Kramlich, Norman and Norah Stone and Chara Schreyer

“Often, as with 2 as 3 and Some, Too (1997), one might first see a work of hers as an inversion of the emphases of a possible Minimalist precedent. But if 2 as 3 and Some, Too reminds one of Sol LeWitt then it is as a spindly and also jumbled-up version of LeWitt. A LeWitt reimagined from the beginning and so thoroughly that an intentional (or unavoidable) reference also becomes that which indicates that little is to be gained from pursuing the comparison. […] The work is not an anti-LeWitt, nor a kind of footnote to or elaboration of his themes, but is rather something much more like an object where history requires that one be reminded of him in order that one may see how little the piece has to do with his work. […]
2 as 3 and Some, Too uses colour and line as agents of dematerialisation where that is a necessary condition of mobility, in particular of movement between one visual possibility and another.”

J. Gilbert-Rolfe, ‘Visible Space, Elusive Object’, in Liz Larner, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Basel, Basel; Basel: Schwabe & Co, 1997, n.p.

smile (abiding)

1996-2005
cast porcelain, in two parts
smile: 53.3 x 78.7 x 31.8 cm.; 21 x 31 x 12 1/2 in.
base: 84.5 x 46.7 x 71.8 cm.; 33 1/4 x 18 3/8 x 28 1/4 in.

“After years of formal and material experimentation, wherein Larner had produced a body of work remarkable for its evasion of a recognisable style, her decision not only to work in clay but to create a series marked a novel direction. In the seeking of form, Larner understands that repetition achieves a kind of present, a truth, and with ceramic, she has found a material that is as illimitable as X quantities. A material that is both support, like canvas, and spine, like sculpture. The smiles were the first series of several the artist made in ceramic, more specifically, in porcelain. 
Why smiles? Have you really ever looked at them—studied their fronts and backs, sides, edges, planes, and volumes? Given Larner’s investment in concretising the ephemeral, immortalising the atmospheric, and chronicling the unseen, the smile seems a fitting subject. The layers in which Larner’s smiles encapsulate their materiality and concept are manifold. As Larner worked through the series, she was inspired by various literary descriptions of smiles, especially in John Gregory Dunne’s 1987 novel ‘The Red White and Blue’. The title of each smile in the series includes a modifier in parentheses: smile (abiding), smile (declining), smile (fangs), and so on.”

J. Porter, ‘X Quantities’, in Liz Larner, exh. cat., Aspen Art Museum, New York; New York: Karma, 2016, p. 30

Between Loves Me and Not

1992

mirror, in 21 pieces
overall: 457.2 x 495.3 cm, 180 x 195 in.
each mirror: 0.6 cm.; 1/4 in. thick

“[…] Larner’s almost obsessive use of mirrors and reflecting materials seems to deal more with a desire to conquer a concrete physicality of a surrounding space, it is directed outwards, aiming at expansion, and as such, it always contributes to the production of an actual space as its active, potential and responsive component. The early Between Loves Me and Not (1992), though is more about an illusory space of a human psyche: pieces of mirror, spread across the gallery floor, remind us of a dangerous surface of broken ice on the winter river, a surface of water which in magical or mythic modes symbolises a surface of consciousness. Alluding to a narcissistic myth, this installation also reflects a certain impossibility of narrating a story or constructing an emotion amongst fragments of an inner experience.“


A. Budak, ‘The Dynamics of Something. On Mirroring, Varying and Sensing in the Work of Maria Lassnig and Liz Larner’, in Two or Three or Something: Maria Lassnig, Liz Larner, exh. cat., Kunsthaus Graz, Graz; Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2006, p. 20

Wrapped Corner

1991
chain, turnbuckles, and steel brackets
124.5 x 228.6 cm.; 49 x 90 in.

Wrapped Corner (1991) addresses the corner by embracing a convex corner in a clasp of high-tension steel chain. While Wrapped Corner literally occupies almost no space, highly bound as it is to the wall, the tension of the chain does not merely grip the corner, but is the fundamental basis for the form of the piece itself. Without the tension, the chain would lose its structure and flop loosely to the floor. The psychological and physical pressures implied by the taut chain become essential elements in its composition. The action of the piece is simultaneously to articulate and to remove the section of the corner on which it exists.”

R. Ferguson, ‘Liz Larner’, in Liz Larner, exh. cat., Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 2001, p. 97

Verwoben (Head, Torso, Foot)

1989
Installation view: True Stories: A Show Related To An Era - The Eighties,
Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, 2018

Verwoben - Head, Torso, Foot (1989) was created over a period of several months in Vienna as a project for Pakesch’s gallery. The work was intended programmatically in the meaning of the title. Three cubes were woven (‘Verwoben’) out of very different threads and materials and strung up in the room. In the spirit of classical sculptural notions these abstract structures were given the titles Head, Torso and Foot. One side of the first cube consists of a collage made of paper strips made of newspapers that depict humans heads. This deliberate mixing of formal elements with material and media representation is like a concentrated version of what was innovative of the art of the eighties, a method that we can view as a basis for artistic approaches right up to the present time.“

P. Pakesch with L. Eitel, ‘Notes on the Artists and Works’, in True Stories: A Show Related To An Era - The Eighties, exh. cat., Berlin: Galerie Max Hetzler and Holzwarth Publications, 2019, p. 234

Verwoben (Head, Torso, Foot)

1989
Head: newspaper, gauze, rubber and wire, in four parts

Torso: fabric, fur, canvas, plastic and paper, in four parts
Foot: fabric, silver, leather, cotton, nylon and rubber, in four parts
Head: each 30 x 30 cm.; 11 3/4 x 11 3/4 in.
Torso: each 90 x 60 cm.; 35 3/8 x 25 5/8 in.
Foot: each 15 x 33 cm.; 5 7/8 x 13 in.
overall dimensions variable, tightened according to room installation
Photo: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

“A sculpture like Verwoben (1989) is made out of woven stripes of the most different materials that are situated in the space like a spider web that escaped regularity. The starting point is here the investigation of material and space: To what extent can a certain material be forced to assume a certain form in space? What happens to the space if different materials are mixed? The tight stripes held together by firm knots reproduce the tension that is created at a different level by the mix. But the sculpture as a whole is anchored in the space and relaxes the tension. The spectator has to construct the relations between the single parts and the whole again and again. In this piece, Larner makes the relation of mental and physical organisation of space very clear and implicit: the construction of formal levels and relation between them (which is established and vanishes subsequently) has as a consequence mental construction. This mental construction does not have to be translated into meaning, the sculpture as an interconnection of forms can be simply transferred from the outside to the inside. There is no meaning construction of a formal content but a formal construction that can occupy different spaces at the same time.”

M. Prinzhorn, ‘Form and Vice Versa: The Sculptures of Liz Larner’, in Liz Larner, exh. cat., Kunsthalle Basel, Basel; Basel: Schwabe & Co, 1997, n.p.

Bird in Space

1989
nylon cord sewn with silk, weighted with stainless steel blocks
dimensions variable
Collection: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.

“The issue of the base had been worked through enough that Larner could make a floor-based work. Bird in Space (1989) is an arch of nylon cord sewn with silk. Although it does not engage with decay as previous works did, it employs other means to cut against conventional expectations for sculpture. It is not a work that sits squarely on the floor but seems instead to be in the process of taking off. It convincingly occupies a substantial amount of space, yet it does so with materials that are all but weightless. Only the small stainless-steel blocks that anchor the soaring form to the ground prevent it from being evanescent. The lines demarcated by the cord are ‘drawn’ by the tension held by the weights, but the overall linearity of the piece also suggests lines more conventionally defined—lines drawn on paper, lines that occupy a two-dimensional plane rather than a three-dimensional space. The fact that the piece as a whole drives these apparently two-dimensional elements into unequivocally three-dimensional space is one of its great and intriguing strengths.
Larner’s title deliberately invites comparison with Brancusi’s Bird in Space (1928), an invitation, incidentally, that indicates the range of Larner’s interest in the history of investigations of space through sculpture.

R. Ferguson, ‘Liz Larner’, in Liz Larner, exh. cat., Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 2001, pp. 40-41; p. 44

Corner Basher

1988
steel, stainless steel, electric motor with speed control mechanism
304.8 cm.; 120 in.

“‘People have dealt with the wall, or the floor, but where two walls meet is a really beautiful, poetic space. Where two axes arrive and touch each other should not be a dead space; it should be one of the most powerful spaces. I like moving things into the corners and sometimes trying to change the shape of the corner.’ […]
One of her earliest attempts to do just that was the notorious Corner Basher (1988), a ball and chain attached to a pole on wheels. When Corner Basher’s motor is activated (visitors turn it on and off) it flails away at the walls on either side of the corner, doing real damage to them while sending plaster and other debris flying. ‘Corner Basher rips a hole in the corner and carves it out into another form.’, Larner says, ‘so it’s like sweeping into those forces of the two walls.’” 


L. Larner and R. Ferguson, in Liz Larner, exh. cat., Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 2001, p. 92

Cultures

1988
glass, cultures
various dimensions
Photo: def image

“The biological process is quickly evident: as bacteria dig for food, the coloured layers are mixed, and a kind of painting is produced. Painting marks the natural progression of progressive generations. What it masks, as well as marks, is unchecked proliferation. Actual life explodes through every inch of its limited resources. When the life is gone—having exhausted all nutrition, finally consuming itself—the painting remains, an unwitting product of consumption; a useless object.”

T. Power, ‘Notes on works by Liz Larner’, in Graz 1988, exh. cat., Graz: Grazer Kunstverein, 1988, p. 103

Used to Do the Job

1987
steel, aluminum, coal, copper, iron, zinc, copper carbonate, brass, bronze, saltpetre, bursera gummfera, glass, iron oxide, santalum album, bluestone, sulfur, tar, rubber, volcanic ash, lodestones, trinitrotoluene (TNT), ammonium nitrate, and other natural and artificial ingredients suspended in microcrystalline wax and paraffin on sheet-metal base
123.2 x 65.4 x 62.9 cm.; 48 1/2 x 25 3/4 x 24 3/4 in.
Collection: The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Gift of Alan Dinsfriend and Matthew Ruble, M.D.

“The role of the sculptural base, however, was to play a decisive part in Larner’s development. The base is one of those traditional signifiers of sculpture that Larner’s practice seeks to interrogate and redefine. Her bases slowly began to take on greater and greater significance, eventually competing with other elements for supremacy. In Used to Do the Job (1987), the lead and sheet-metal base is almost a mirror image of the cube of mixed ingredients that sits on top of it. Among those ingredients, suspended in paraffin wax, are materials used to cast bronze sculptures and those used to make bombs. Larner gives the base for this volatile concoction an equivalent presence to the potentially explosive ‘sculpture’ on top of it. ‘The ‘base’ for the sculpture can also contain it, and thus can be considered as both a kind of storage crate and as the shell casing for the sculpture in its incarnation as a bomb. Her continuing struggle with the very value of sculpture is evident.”

R. Ferguson, ‘Liz Larner’, in Liz Larner, exh. cat., Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 2001, p. 36

Orchid, Buttermilk, Penny

1987
orchid, buttermilk, penny, glass

“Alongside this willingness to stretch boundaries and question received definitions, Larner also brought with her from CalArts a certain residual suspicion of object-making. Many of her early works reveal an artist tempted by formal issues, yet at the same time determined to question each sculptural convention. In 1987, Larner and two other artists, Cindy Bernard and Martha Godfrey, organised a show titled ‘Room 9’ at the Tropicana Motel in West Hollywood. Among her earliest works, visible first in photographs made at the Tropicana, are the series of ‘culture’ pieces. These begin from a position of rejection of all the elements that would conventionally be considered essential for sculpture, beginning with form itself. They are collations of disparate elements suspended together in agar, a form of gelatine that encourages bacterial growth, and allowed to act on each other. Orchid, Buttermilk, Penny (1987) is a typically diverse agglomeration, brought together in a pair of petri dishes and presented with great formal elegance.”

R. Ferguson, ‘Liz Larner’, in Liz Larner, exh. cat., Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 2001, pp. 20-21



All works: © Liz Larner
Image Courtesies:
Animal Vegetable Idocrose, 2019; Horizon —, 2019; Firestone, 2019; Reef, 2019: Regen Projects, Los Angeles