Lift is the descriptive title of Jessica Stockholder's new show at the gallery 1301 PE, on view through August 31. Descriptive because cords of blue, white, black, green and yellow are wrapped around a support of about four feet square, tilted on a point, a recognizable form commonly known as a "God's Eye." Also known as Ojo de Dios, these talismans were woven as spiritual blessings to be placed by a trail or at a home from the 15th to 19th centuries in Mexico and the Southwest. These days, you can see small versions sold in the self-help sections of bookstores but Stockholder has enlarged the God's Eye, amplifying its omniscient role. It is held aloft by a heavy duty scissors lift in the courtyard in front of the gallery. You literally have to look up to see it so your eyes, and perhaps your heart and mind, are lifted as well.
This pertains to the core condition of Stockholder's art. It is often site-specific, designed and assembled in response to a particular place. Despite the modest scale of this gallery, where she last showed in 2007, Stockholder has come up with a major statement. The front room contains a piece of deceptive simplicity, Related, (2013) which is made from a few blocks holding up a piece of granite, a swatch of pink and a pelt of fur. Related to itself or, since it is lifted upward, related to the sculpture outside?
Indeed, Stockholder's individual sculptures follow the uplifting theme since many include actual ladders. In the large upstairs gallery, Stockholder has laid green Astroturf along the far edge of the room and a painted a big slash of magenta across windows. Standing at one end of this Astroturf is Green Cut, (2013), a wooden ladder partially painted in green and black and partially covered with the plastic and paper packaging for a metal clamp. A tree root is mounted on the wall and a piece of black and green vinyl is suspended from it. And somehow, these random bits coalesce into something quite exceptional.
Looking at this and other pieces overturns all notions of traditional painting and sculpture as her works can be read as two or three dimensional regardless of the actual physical substance. If this sounds like old hat, be assured that Stockholder was a ground-breaking artist, having taken on these issues in the early 1980s, at the outset of what is now a highly regarded career. She received her MFA from Yale University in 1985 and, until recently, she spent 12 years as director of the sculpture department at the art school there. She is now Chair of the Visual Arts faculty at the University of Chicago and last year completed Color Jam, shapes of bright hues along the street and other points at busy intersection in Chicago.
In fact, you mostly see Stockholder's work in large museum shows or big installations so it is refreshing to be able to appreciate these pieces made with spontaneous care in such an intimate setting. Not to mention, the all-seeing eye of God. For more information, go to 1301PE.com.
Banner image: Jessica Stockholder, A Green Cut, 2013. All photos courtesy of 1301PE, Los Angeles. Photograph: Fredrik Nilsen