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Lisa Anne Auerbach

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If you made it to Frieze, you might have lucked out with an appointment with Lisa Anne Auerbach and her Psychic Art Advisor booth offering guidance to collectors and others.

If not, a longer lasting impression is her current exhibition Libraries at Gavlak Gallery. Each substantial black and white representation of a bookshelf is knitted by the artist on a machine. Hanging on the walls of the gallery, they impart the collective impression of being in a library, albeit a curious one.


Lisa Anne Auerbach. As a Lady Would Say, 2019. Merino wool stitched onto stretched linen 80 x 63 in (203.2 x 160 cm) Courtesy of Gavlak Gallery.

Based partly on collections of books by certain individuals, each reveals the passions and idiosyncracies of their owners. One is modeled on some of the books of gallery owner Sarah Gavlak, known for her commitment to women artists as well as her own lady-like demeanor. (Gavlak Gallery served tea and sweets on fine china on the Saturday morning of Frieze.) The hanging “As a Lady Would Say” has titles ranging from Paintings in Proust to Sense and Sensibility with knitted images of high-heels and cats interspersed among the volumes.


Lisa Anne Auerbach. Fear, 2018. Merino wool stitched onto stretched linen 54 x 45 in (137.2 x 114.3 cm) Courtesy of Gavlak Gallery.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is a fictional bookshelf titled “Fear” with titles like Mein Kampf and The Art of the Deal messily sharing space with cobwebs and revolvers. Yoga for Americans includes titles on following your bliss.

Auerbach, 52, initially got a degree in photography but switched to knitting and textile arts after getting her MFA at Art Center in 1994. She is known for cozy items of clothing bearing political messages including the long-running project of Body Count Mittens, knitted with the individual dates and cumulative numbers of American soldiers killed in Iraq from 2005. Yet, her art has also encompassed self-publishing and zines.


Lisa Anne Auerbach. Yoga for Americans, 2018. Merino wool stitched onto stretched linen 80 x 63 in (203.2 x 160 cm) Courtesy of Gavlak Gallery.

“Libraries” evolved after she moved and was struck by the way her own bookshelves revealed years of concerns and life- choices. Books reveal a person’s inner life. Auerbach’s hangings are similarly personal. Each is knitted using a doublewide of a knitting machine and computer program. With the appearance of hand-lettering and uneven edges, the pieces are crafted and appealingly imperfect. Black and white, like the text on a printed page, they take time to read and experience. Some titles are so peculiar, we can’t help but wonder whether they are made up.

Medieval Dogs? America’s Strategic Blunders? (That could be a long one.) Yet, the diversity, actual or invented, reflects belief systems and fascinations unchanneled by algorithms and therefore truer to the realities of human nature.

Auerbach’s exhibition reminds us of the value of books over posts, of civility over cynicism and of contemplation over action. You don’t need a psychic to know the importance of those messages. The show continues through March 16.