Liz Nurenberg, using one of her sculptures in the gallery.
Art in these times often requires a lot from viewers. You must grasp some meaning behind the materials, think in terms of art world politics or real world politics, and consider the identity and background of the creator. Going to the galleries in LA has become our vantage point to see how curators and artists handle difficult times. It is an important investigation of the changing world through visual language, but it’s not necessarily “fun.” I felt a refreshing diversion from this seriousness when I walked into Liz Nurenberg’s show at Elephant. In “Twiddle, Poke, Hold” a row of small sculptures mounted on a color-coordinated shelf circled the room. They are clean, simple forms with surfaces of various synthetic textures. Cast fingers protrude from several pieces and an obtrusive spring runs through one. Reference to familiar forms such as a camera, a grand piano, and a microphone come up and then are discarded as I realize these strange entities are holey unique. The invitation to touch the work is made clear by a video projected on the wall of hands twiddling, poking and holding the pieces. You are invited to explore, and supposed to play.
Liz Nurenberg’s show “Twiddle, Poke, Hold” at Elephant, an Artist-run space in Glassell Park ran from April 9th – April 29th 2017.
Visitors are invited to play with and encouraged to reimagine usage for these pieces.
The building Elephant is in now used to be a doctor’s office. Liz paid reference to this history by displaying her ‘grown-up toys’ in the waiting room.
Liz has been honing an unconventional and specific practice since she came out of her MFA at Claremont Graduate University in 2010. She makes interactive soft sculptures. These cushiony, smooth pieces are made with furniture foam, and are intended to be touched. Earlier sculptures acted as props for facilitating interactions between viewers. These new pieces are focused on creating an intimacy with the object itself, or perhaps with the artist herself, as we run our hands over the fingerprints she left in forming the plastic enclaves of these works. Liz’s materials and the utilitarian suggestion of the large sculptures (she is lounging on one reading a book as I walk into the exhibition space for our interview) have an IKEA feel. Yet their DIY intuitive nature stands in defiance of this mass-production reference. Liz is stepping backwards, replacing technology with a handmade craftiness. In an era where our phones, watches and cars are becoming smart, Liz’s sculptures are intrinsically dumb.
I was first acquainted with Liz’s work at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions as part of the 2016 show Irrational Exhibitions 9. She was showing a collection of soft sculptures fashioned after the Hollywood stars that run up and down the sidewalk outside the gallery. Her four stars had the names of celebrity actors like Kirk Douglas and James Stewart sewn onto them. Viewers were to mount the stars on their head and listen through earphones to clips from their movies. Liz also had several of her white sculptures on display, which are meant to facilitate the creation of an interaction between people. While many of the participating artists were doing their own performances, it intrigued me that Liz’s work was getting the audience to perform.
Liz’s work at LACE for Irrational Exhibitions 9.
A Conversation piece being used at the Armory Center for the Arts.
Liz presented me with a beautiful metaphor for her work. It is like being inside a painting, you get to feel the textures, listen to the sounds and touch the colors. She is hoping to show outside of America, to see how the work lives in cultures that have different relations to touch.
You can learn more about Liz Nurenberg’s work at her website www.liznurenberg.com
David Pagel reviewed her recent show at Elephant for the LA Times latimes.com
By: Lara Salmon