Meerschaum Drift (Blue), 2020–21. Plastic, 37 x 240 x 346.75 in. Photo: © Liz Larner, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles 

Unsettling Outcomes: A Conversation with Liz Larner

Liz Larner embodies Isaiah Berlin’s classic hedgehog vs. fox dichotomy. As the fox, her view of the world can’t be reduced to a single reading; but like the hedgehog, she has the patience and temperament to follow a singular vision. Both characteristics are reflected in her materials and processes, arcane subject matter, and conceptual rigor. Larner possesses the aesthetic bandwidth to make deeply serious, issue-oriented, and sometimes humorous work. Her objects, which are the consequence of analytical thinking and intense research, expand and redefine the vocabulary of sculpture using the full range of fabrication methods—from the handmade to the computer-generated. Underlying all is an intense curiosity about the intersectionality of gender, aesthetics, and the physical world, as well as sculpture’s profound resonance with the body.

Over the course of a 35-year career, Larner has worked with a near-encyclopedic range of non-traditional materials, including volcanic ash, surgical gauze, leather, false eyelashes, mold, and trash. Whether combined with wood, steel, plastics, and ceramic, or not, she makes her choices based on physical or chemical qualities, enmeshing materials with aesthetic, cultural, and social meanings.

Kay Whitney: You had no background in sculpture. What led you to making objects?
Liz Larner:
I trained as a photographer at CalArts in the early 1980s. It was the Pictures Generation era, and the art school was theory-driven. Baudrillard was required reading. I realized that I was taking it in differently than most people—as real criticism of the culture rather than an embrace of the simulacra . . .

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