A woman walked into the opening of Liza Lou’s "Maximum Security" at L&M Arts’ uptown townhouse, accompanied by two small girls.
"Remember," she said to her daughters, "you are not allowed to touch anything. If you do, they will chop off your hand and turn it into art!" Considering that a beaded cage, sized for one prisoner, at the back of the gallery is priced at $1 million, this is not far from the truth, for "Maximum Security" strips away everything that once made the work of Liza Lou lively and unique, turning her brand into one more politically correct commodity.
I am sick to death of artists beating me over the head with objects extolling the oppressed that are just high-priced baubles to adorn the suites of the leveraged monsters who are destroying the world economy. That this has happened to Liza Lou, who once painstakingly rebuilt bits of Americana, such as kitchens and trailers, out of nothing but brightly colored beads, is especially disheartening.
Apparently, Liza took her MacArthur Genius Grant, moved to South Africa, hired some Zulus to fabricate her work (no joke) and discarded the provenance of joy and humor, which was once hers alone, to deliver political lectures in the form of hackneyed new work that is formally derivative, to the point of mimicry, of Mona Hatoum, especially a beaded cage at Lever House, which has everything Mona in it but the latter’s claustrophobic menace.
The berms and boxes at L&M, visually charmless, owe a lot to Rachel Whiteread, except the latter’s dry, resigned irony, which Lou is too unsophisticated to imitate. Some "Muslim" wall hangings there are decoratively worse than Thomas Kincaid. All that survives of Lou’s once protean quality is a tiny pillow with the impression of a head resembling Munch’s The Scream, that has a touch of Hans Bellmer in it.
Well, Liza Lou, I knew you when the work of your hands sparkled at the New Museum and PPOW Gallery. Enjoy the money, because your soul has left the building.
Liza Lou, "Maximum Security," Sept. 24-Nov. 15, 2008, at L&M Arts, 45 East 78th Street, New York, N.Y. 10075
Liza Lou, Maximum Security Fence, at the Lever House Lobby, 390 Park Avenue at 53rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10022
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).