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During a recent visit to MOCA to check out the first museum exhibition by Los Angeles based artist Liz Larner, I realized that I have seen some of her sculptures before, without being aware that they were made by the same artist. Now I know. Liz Larner, a graduate of CAL ARTS and currently a teacher at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, is the kind of artist who is not concerned about developing a singular recognizable style. Her sculptures widely fluctuate in size and materials, from small to a room size installation, from a cluster of small plastic shapes to 16 miles of surgical gauze, tightly wrapped into a ball 4 feet in diameter. I was surprised by my reaction to her work, which ranged from being amused, challenged and enamored, to being annoyed, challenged and frustrated. I guess the artist would not be disappointed in such a response, probably even welcome it.

Her severe looking 1991 "Wrapped Corner" is made from steel chains actually wrapped around the corner of the room. The 1989 "Lash Mat" is a black vertical strip hanging rigidly on a wall, then - close to the floor - unexpectedly reveals its furry pliable nature by ending with a soft curve. It is made from millions of false eyelashes sewn onto leather. From a distance it looks like a black mink. Its easy to imagine at least dozens of PhD papers written about this piece and dealing with the issues of feminism, gender, and appropriation.

My least favorite part of the show is an odd-looking room-size installation called "Corridors," which is made from metal panels suspended from the ceiling, stretched fabric, and leather bags, filled with rocks and used as weights to anchor the suspended elements to the floor. If it sounds confusing, wait until you see it. I experienced it as a clash of shapes and colors making little sense. The next gallery, in a welcome contrast, has Liz Larner's most satisfying, complex, and intriguing artworks: huge cubes whose shapes and volumes are defined by thin metal tubes, as if drawn by an invisible hand. These cubes are skewed and ready to tumble onto the floor, as if their structure is slowly melting down.

One final note: the extremely elegant catalogue of the exhibition presents many other works not actually included in this show. A few works, photographed during previous installations, look better in the catalogue, as is the case with the 40 foot long uprooted tree, installed diagonally in the museum outdoor plaza. It looks more convincing in the catalogue photo of its previous installation, here in L.A., sticking out of a parking garage behind an apartment building designed by Schindler. I actually saw it there and it looked fantastic indeed, with glowing electric light bulbs attached, and live plants growing out of its trunk.

With every passing day, the nearby Disney Hall goes through a dramatic metamorphosis, from an ugly duckling of a construction site to tantalizing glimpses of what it is going to look like in its final, complete stage of full swan beauty. A gigantic triangular shape, whose profile makes one think of a ship, is getting at last its final layer of stainless steel skin. My advice: don't miss a chance to see this unique building while under construction. It is the greatest show in town, free of charge and full of excitement. And it changes with every passing day.
Additional Info:

Museum of Contemporary Art
250 South Grand Ave
Los Angeles CA 90012
(213) 626-6222
www.moca.org

Liz Larner
Dec 2, 2001 - March 10, 2002

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