Over the past six decades, Liliane Lijn (American, lives and works in London) has created a strikingly diverse and visually arresting body of work.
Lijn’s art is the direct visual, sensory, plastic outcome of her explorations and mining of inner and outer bodily phenomena, things huge and microscopic, inside and around us, difficult to nail down. What she wants is to get into and bring out such invisible forces; as much as her quest is solitary and personal, the works are not projections of the artist—or of anyone’s self.
"I don’t feel that I am necessarily an artisan but perhaps more an inventor. I think I can compare it to the difference between a research scientist and a technician. I am not terribly interested in making the object, but I have to, in order to see my invention.” (1)
In order to “see” her inventions, Lijn has experimented widely and wildly across mediums and materials, notably, incorporating machinery, light, and language in her work. Her North London studio is a place for speculation but also a site for testing, a research center, a lab.
Ordet is pleased to announce a solo exhibition by Liliane Lijn, comprising work from 1969 to the present day, the most comprehensive presentation of the artist outside the UK.
The earliest work on show, Linear Light Column (1969) is a rotating cylinder wound in enamelled copper wire — once the main material used for telecommunication — to hypnotic optical effect.
Feathered Lady (1979) and Heshe (1980) are breathtaking in their formal and material appearances: 2-meter tall, these humanoid totems are ambiguously gendered through the use of feather dusters, piano wires, synthetic fibers. Both are topped by tank periscope prisms. Prisms are recurrent in Lijn's oeuvre: they energize white light, splitting it into its spectral colors, make energy visible.
On view are also smaller pieces created in the 1980s, “Beaded Heads,” studies for a new kind of female head, and “Torn Heads,” in which soft blown glass is combined with bronze, aluminum, feather dusters, and other materials. These works lead up to the focal point of the show: The Bride (1988). A massive mixed-media performing sculpture, The Bride collapses myth, technology, industry, and nature. Enclosed in a black cage, this female archetype is a towering presence made of epoxy-bonded mica, ostrich feathers, blown glass, and lacquered papier-mâché balls. In darkness, she pulsates with light.
From the same period is a selection of pastels such as She, Flower Head, and Glass Head, and the triptych Transformation of the Bride into the Medusa (1987).
Later sculptural pieces like She Me Skin of the Tree (1999) and Nested Foot (2001) integrate discernible body parts—casts of the artist’s own body.
Finally, the exhibition premieres the most recent of Lijn’s inventions. In Catastrophic Encounters (2019-20), molten glass is poured onto a mica metal compound called Vapourshield, cratering its surface, bubbling like lava, becoming fossils.
Liliane Lijn was born in New York in 1939 to emigrés parents. She attended boarding school in Lugano and at 19 moved to Paris where she studied archeology at the Sorbonne and art history at the École du Louvre. In Paris, Lijn met the surrealist André Breton. Back in the States in 1961, Lijn lived in New York, where she first worked with plastics, experimenting with reflection, motion and light, and conducted her first research into invisibility at MIT. Upon her return to Paris, her interest in science and her friendships with Greek sculptor Takis, and Beat poets William Burroughs, Bryan Gysin and Nazli Nour inspired her early works with light and text: her first solo exhibition at the Librairie Anglaise in 1963 premiered the Poem Machines. Lijn lived with Takis in Athens between 1964-66. She moved to London in 1966.
Lijn has exhibited extensively. Among her last solo shows, “SHE,” Rodeo Gallery, London, 2019; “Spotlight,” Tate Britain, London 2018; and “Cosmic Dramas,” Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, in 2012.
Recent group shows include “On the Politics of Delicacy,” Capitain Petzel, Berlin 2020, “Sisterhood,” Haus N Athen, Athens; and “Still Undead: Popular Culture in Britain Beyond the Bauhaus,” Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham, 2019.
(1) Liliane Lijn in discussion with Vera Lindsey, Studio International, May 1969: 219
“I AM SHE” has received generous support from Nicoletta Fiorucci Russo, Emily King and Matthew Slotover.