There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in. - Leonard Cohen
For the past six years, Liza Lou has maintained a studio in Durban, South Africa where she
works with Zulu artisans whose families have worked with beads for generations. While
Lou does not borrow from the tradition of African beadwork, the new body of work on view at L&M Arts (Los Angeles, California) in the Spring of 2011, reflects her travels, meditating upon process, the impossibility of perfection, and what Lou terms "the culpability of craft."
In the East gallery, Lou presents the monumental sculpture Gather (one million), a
shimmering 150-square foot golden field made from nine million beads in varying shades of
gold which were threaded onto cut wire to make one million blades of grass. Its painterly
freedom evokes the seasonal regeneration of landscape and the abundance of harvest but a
closer examination reveals a more minimalist methodology. Lou systematically counted,
weighed, blended and divided the blades into equal wheat-like sheaves. She then tied each
bundle with hemp twine, labeled and numbered each one and then following a geometric
grid, simply stood them upon the floor.
Lou uses geometric structures in many of the pieces in the exhibition in order to reveal the
humanity underlying repetitive labor, resulting in works whose imperfections display
ineffable beauty and human tenderness. One work, for example, titled horse-shitting, hairsplitting, nit-picking, piss trickling, consists of a grid of beaded white squares which Lou pieced together with 24 karat gold beads to make a single sheet and then stretched like canvas. Imperfections become apparent in the making - the squares become rectangular, surfaces become dirty and misshapen; holes and pockmarks appear.
Another canvas, titled Lost, Found, is made of debris-covered beads the artist has collected from her studio floors over the past five years. The rejected silver beads, woven into various sized bandage-like strips were then painstakingly re-assembled and stretched to create a
shimmering variegated whole.
The Book of Days is a deceptively simple monolithic stack. The sculpture is comprised of 365 single sheets of silver bead-woven "paper," each made over a period of one year, and then
stacked one on top of another. Only the top sheet is fully visible leaving the investment of
time, workmanship and skill needed to weave each individual sheet not readily visible. The
result is an intense work that seems to distill a sense of longing, as though our days are
incandescent and ungraspable, compressed one on top of another and forgotten.
Liza Lou was born in New York City in 1969 and has lived in Los Angeles since 1990. She
has had numerous solo exhibitions, including the Stiftung museum kunst palast, Düsseldorf;
Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona; Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo; White Cube, London;
Aspen Art Museum, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Group shows include The Israel
Museum, Jerusalem; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Serpentine, London; Biennale d'art
Contemporain de Lyon, and Taipei Biennale, among many others. The Dakis Joannou
Collection, Cleveland Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Fondation
Cartier, the Olbricht Collection, the Franҫois Pinault Foundation, and the Brant
Foundation are but a few of the international collections that own her work. In 2002, she
was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.
A fully illustrated catalogue with texts by Francine Prose and Michael Duncan will be
published to accompany the exhibition.
Rizzoli has published a comprehensive monograph on the work of Liza Lou in March 2011.
* The title is excerpted from the letter that Sol Le Witt wrote to Eva Hesse, in which he advised, "You
belong in the most secret part of you. Don't worry about cool. Make your own uncool."
(Press Release, "Liza Lou," L&M Arts, Los Angeles, California, March 26-May 7, 2011)