Paul-Aymar Mourge d’Algue
Stefanie Gschwend, Director Kunstmuseum / Kunsthalle Appenzell
Between You and Me
Californian artist Liz Craft (*1970, Los Angeles, CA, USA) makes sculptures and figurative installations that appear to be fragments in space. They seem to tell us dream-like stories summoning an atmosphere that can be associated with Surrealism, fairy tales or drug hallucinations. The formal language of her works has an immediate effect on the viewer, the techniques and materials merging without hierarchy – ranging from fabric, plastic, glass and papier mâché to synthetic resin, ceramics and bronze.
For her art, Craft draws primarily on ideas from the American counterculture of the 1960s, psychedelic experiences and pop culture.. She borrows imagery from B-movies, Westerns and horror films as well as from comics and the aesthetics of amusement park backdrops. Craft frequently lifts figures such as witches, unicorns, motorcyclists, pirates and the Grim Reaper out of their familiar contexts to quote, exaggerate or condense them in her works. The installation Ms. America (2022) is based on Pac-Man, a well-known character from the very first video games. Craft has put a red bow on the figure’s head and reduced its body to a black velvet toga. In contrast to the expressive gestures of her Spider Ladies (2015), the figures in Ms. America are alienated through their static poses, mouths wide open and gazes looking blankly up at the ceiling.
Displayed in the exhibition space, the works enter into relationships with each other, like actors in a theatre piece. The figures’ gazes, words and gestures are arranged in new constellations each time they are presented, always telling a different story. In the series Speech Bubbles, wall sculptures whose shape recalls the speech bubbles in comic books or instant messages seem to be having conversations amongst themselves. The works bear punchy titles such as Suck it Hippie! (2017) or Do You Love Me Now (2019). The dialogue going on between two large sculptures is indicated by their respective titles: The first asks What are you going to do about it? and receives a laconic Go fuck yourself as response (both 2017).
Craft’s sculptural work has a sprawling quality, for example the wall piece Strange Thing (2018), a parasitic organism made of electrical switch boxes and cable lines that spreads out across the walls, exploring its boundaries. The sculptures call to mind that particular brand of Californian irreverence that can be summed up by the words “Too Cool for School”. This phrase reflects an attitude derived from American teen movies, describing a casual but arrogant individual who likes to defy rules and social codes. But it is also the title of a well-known article by author Dennis Cooper about the boisterous and vibrant art scene in 1990s Los Angeles, in the context of which he mentions Craft’s name. This scene drew its life primarily from the dedication of UCLA’s School of Arts and Architecture, from which Liz Craft had just graduated at the time the article was written. Her archive ...my life in the sunshine (2006–2017) testifies to the relevance of this community of artists. “Too Cool for School” is an expression that would also have made an apt title for a work by Liz Craft. Because the artist likes to work with formulations that are trenchant and barbed but still “fun”.
In cooperation with the Kunsthaus Centre d’art Pasquart, Biel/Bienne
Curators of the exhibition
Paul-Aymar Mourge d’Algue
On the occasion of the exhibition Liz Craft, a monographic publication will be published in autumn 2024 in cooperation with Kunsthaus Pasquart.
The exhibition is kindly supported by
Heinrich Gebert Kulturstiftung Appenzell