Project Series 2: Liz Young
Liz Young's installation Happy Hide Better Blood artist's book, and accompanying "live procedure" (the opening performance on February 28) all reflect the artist's provocative take on everyday life at the end of the 20th century. For fifteen years, Young, who works in Los Angeles, has been producing art that incorporates objects, installations, and performance. In the past, she has created mixed media installations using organic materials--wood, leather, cloth--that she has carved, cast, woven, and welded, raising issues of physical endurance and survival. Recently, her focus has shifted to man-made materials and to exploring the dualities of attraction and repulsion, disgust and curiosity, in relationship to the human body. She continues to fabricate her work by hand, emphasizing the role of craft, including traditionally "feminine" techniques such as knitting, crocheting, and painting with nail polish. Young frequently performs in conjunction with her installations; she calls these performances, "live procedures," and considers them rudimentary activities which refer to the objects and spaces of her installations.
By transforming found and fabricated materials into extraordinary objects, Young creates environments that seem dreamlike in their associations with the body and the home. Happy Hide Better Blood, like the artist's earlier installations, grapples with issues of physicality, scale, and the way we see our bodies in relationship to architecture. Here, however, she adds a more playful and decorative aspect to potentially disturbing representations of the body--skin, organs, viscera. This installation consists of two rooms, one loosely representing the idea of "flesh," the other "blood."
The larger flesh-colored room evokes the domestic, with its parlor-like atmosphere. Further exploring the idea of the home and the decorative, Young includes anthropomorphized furniture, a hair rug, and nail polish paintings. On the walls, she has recreated and enlarged a 1940s wallpaper pattern, using flesh-toned stencils that simulate upholstery. The skin-like quality of the walls is echoed in the hand-made clothes used during the performance--the artist's "new skin"-- hanging on the wall.
The "blood room" metaphorically represents the circulatory system. According to the artist, the labyrinth on the floor refers to the maze-like mechanism of our circulation; the oversized, red fabric ball represents the pulse or the heart of the organism; and the balloons on the ceiling hint at blood cells. On the far wall, books symbolize the vast range of knowledge contained within each individual's genetic coding. The two rooms--flesh and blood--are linked by a red beaded curtain and by a small hole in the wall next to two altered chairs. These passages simulate the rupturing of flesh at a wound--the only place the two substances come into contact.
This exhibition of the work of Liz Young is the second in the inaugural year of Montgomery Gallery's Project Series. Focusing on Southern California artists, this ongoing program of small exhibitions will bring to the Pomona College campus art that is experimental and that introduces new forms, techniques, or concepts. For their invaluable help in preparing the installation, the artist and I would like to offer special thanks to Gallery Manager Gary Keith and to Professor Mercedes Teixido and the students in her "Installation: Art and Context" course.
Rebecca McGrew, Curator