Liz Magor: I Have Wasted My Life
May 21 through July 2, 2021
By JOHN DRURY, June 2021
There exists a certain material understanding and free-wheeling exploration, an airy consciousness really, unique to British Columbia’s Northwest Coast and centered in Vancouver. Much that is made in America, sees an umbrella as substitute a flower, for example, or a flower proxy the bursting sun. Correlations might be easily drawn, as sculpture incorporating found materials is, if slovenly misunderstood, lumped by the uneducated eye - the “School of Vancouver” (if I might) however, lets “things” simply “be” – and Magor is especially adept in her rhizomatic and sly investigations in nonchalance. The work of Lonnie Holley is about as close as we come, in America.
We find from the Canadian literalist, that a cookie is a cookie, and material is arranged much in regard action painting – overlap, the juxtaposition of form, and color reveal an informal orchestration intuitively skewered. Liz Magor presents then in her Perennial, a Duffle coat...as a Duffle coat. Passages of restorative paint reveal it her own. Hooded and protective, the uniform protest, it is a tool of proactivity. There is evidence of journey, bits of collected detritus are exposed in its pocket...collected seashells reveal a reverence for the natural and a theoretical visit to the shore. A pair of like-pocketed cookies, perhaps weapon taking the “edge off” - near comic relief – signal a sustained trek; ground hard-won, in sheer persistence. We are due no apology the artist/activist’s literal pursuit conservation, and none is offered.
We feel Magor’s presence in the room, and ponder if she has just left the space, or is around the corner…maybe watching diligently over our shoulder. There are empty coffee cups, a bit of wadded tissue. We wonder if they are still warm to the touch. A matter-of-fact demeanor is echoed in the exhibition’s droll, and self-deprecating title - I Have Wasted My Life.
Others from this School of Vancouver, include Geoffrey Farmer and the late Jerry Pethick – Pethick the elder statesman of the group, and an influential visionary. It is no coincidence that Liz Magor comes to us in NYC, here at the Andrew Kreps Gallery, via the Catriona Jeffries Gallery; Jeffries has long exhibited these thoughtful makers and Magor – like Pethick and Farmer - has enjoyed extensive representation by arguably the premier Canadian Gallery. Each artist might be compatibly exhibited in tight proximity the others.
Installations are scattered about the space; tiered-work stations paired with coffee tables and the stacking of geometric components tangling informally, to mock in intuitive placement the painter’s steadfast grid. Each incorporates a single endangered animal form – a giraffe, a lion, and a stork. Three large cardboard boxes – the kind a new mattress, or bicycle may arrive in – large and thin, lean against the walls. All are adorned with a single object. Here especially, is the sense of loss; the smallest of the trio, supports an actual specimen of a once-live bird, paper-tagged and labeled from the Yucatan, in 1889. Life is reduced to example. Each of the other two (near-matching), allow the introduction a splash of pink to the eye – to the otherwise monotonous grey field, by way the plastic flesh of a child’s doll; each naked, female figure (substitute the artist?) negotiating precariously near the top edge of the battered and slumping boxes, from a pinched or folded passage in its surface. Here, minimalism is a dangerous and slippery slope - in metaphor, misstep might be pricey (particularly costly near the apex) – only fair and thoughtful negotiation then, revealing the elusive path to a sustainable future.
In addition to questioning her own plausibly frivolous use of time, Liz Magor assures that we too are conscious a lost variety, species extinction and the power and purpose facsimile in this cunning display of finesse: reminder that hollow substitution is the true cost of the irretrievable. WM
John Drury is a multi-media artist, published author, independent curator and instructor. Drury holds a Bachelor of Fine Art degree from the Columbus College of Art and Design (1983) and a Master of Fine Art Degree in sculpture (1985; including a minor in painting), from Ohio State University. John is the father of two teenagers, living in New York City since 1989 and has received the prestigious Louis Comfort Tiffany Award for his work in sculpture.view all articles from this author