The Art Institute of Chicago recently unveiled two sculptures by Liz Larner, X (2013) and 6 (2010-2011) on the Bluhm Family Terrace. X is a claw-like sculpture, reminiscent of those in a claw vending machine in an arcade, made of glorious, polished chrome. 6 is more linear in structure and form, painted white, tan, and lavender. Both sculptures sit atop a wooden platform, which not only establishes a ground for the work, but also creates a visual break from the surrounding grey architecture.
With these pieces in such close proximity to Millenium Park, it is difficult to ignore X’s relationship to Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate. The relationship is brought closer with X’s rounded shape and chrome material, as well as the way in which the viewer can experience the piece. One can contemplate and engage with this piece’s negative space and appreciate it’s material quality. 6’s liner quality is reminiscent of playground apparatus, but here is slightly slumped and not functional. Again, Larner’s sculptures suggest an engagement with the body, specifically that of an evoked curiosity and play.
As the Chicago skyline and Millenium Park as the backdrop to Larner’s pieces, the audience can experience the work from a number of different vantage points. The sculptures demand a physical engagement, which can be interpreted as play or dance in this viewing experience. The exhibition comes at a great time, to activate the terrace and engage audiences in warmer weather
Liz Larner’s current installation on the Art Institute of Chicago’s Bluhm Family Terrace modifies Chicago’s urban park landscape as much as the modern wing’s summit. Much in the tradition of her oeuvre, this installation is as much about the intersecting spaces Larner’s objects occupy as it is about the sculptures themselves.
The relationship between Larner’s two works is not immediately discernible. X (2013), a reflective stainless steel casting of a voluminous, crawling “X”, is slung low to the ground and curves in upon itself, interplaying perceptions of mass and weight with a curious conflation of space. Alternately, 6 (2011), Larner’s planar construction of stainless steel beams cast in tricolor shades of polyurethane extends into space, belying structures not visible, but anchored to the object. If you are unfamiliar with the terrace, one might not realize that the wooden platform supporting the installation is itself a part of the project. Expanding to fill almost the entirety of the exhibition space, it invites and complicates a close inspection of the sculptures in a reified environment. Both a plane on which Larner is plotting her landscape interventions and a performative threshold for the audience, the oversized ash pedestal magnifies a dialogue between X and 6.
Against the backdrop of Millennium Park and the metallic eruption of the Pritzker Pavilion, one feels both remote and microscopically close to the elements that constitute the landscape. The sculptures, like atomic particles of the built environment they overlook, magnified towards abstraction, are both part and parcel to the vista they command while being staged precariously on its precipice.
Hosted at Johalla Projects in celebration of their current exhibition, SAIC’s Lisa Stone & Aimée Beaubien discuss the latter’s work.
Curator of the Roger Brown Study Collection (RBSC) of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lisa Stone’s research and teaching concern the preservation and interpretation of artist’s environments, collections, and home/studios.
Aimée Beaubien is an artist and educator living and working in Chicago. Her sculptural, photo based collages explore collapses in time, space, and place, while playfully engaging the complexities of visual perception. Beaubien is Assistant Professor in the Department of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her solo exhibition “Twist-flip-tremble-trace” is currently on view at Johalla Projects.
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