Lisa Anne Auerbach

  • A Text About High Desert Test Sites


    *Text by Lisa Anne Auerbach is in italics.


    The best and worst part of High Desert Test Sites is getting lost in the desert. We make a map, but it’s usually inaccurate. The desert is big, a magnitude larger than the city, and we can never fit its immensity on a sheet of paper without the details getting too tiny. So in addition to being inaccurate, the maps are also completely out of proportion, which makes some visitors tense. Seeing the sites isn’t like gallery hopping in Los Angeles. LA is notoriously spread out, but it’s nothing compared to the desert.

  • Chris Finley

    Known primarily for interactive sculptures produced from drugstore items like Rubbermaid containers filled with detritus—pieces of toys, whittled-down pencil stubs—Chris Finley presented in last year’s exhibit “Level One” paintings that made some unusual demands on viewers. Some had to be walked through, examined from specific vantage points to catch perspectival tricks, or, in the case of Boing Splat, 1997, glimpsed while jumping on a trampoline. Though the method of presentation has changed in “Level Two” (part of a series loosely based on the structure of video games, with viewers advancing

  • Patty Wickman

    Curious and complex, the three large paintings and additional studies comprising Patty Wickman’s recent show depicted contemporary Americans looking noncommittal, even bored in the face of confrontation. Crime, disease, and violence may be classic and epic themes, inarguably compelling subject matter for a painting, but these participants seemed nonplussed. Oftentimes their faces were hidden, and their bodies appeared simply numb.

    In the exhibition’s title painting, A Thief in the Night, a shabbily dressed man is halfway out a window, clutching a computer keyboard and a candelabra. In the room

  • Glen Seator

    Art dealers, are, at the very least, baby-sitters for artworks. Like any caretaker, the gallerist is entrusted with valuables too vulnerable to be left unguarded. It’s his or her job to watch over the fragile products brought in by hardworking artists, and, if necessary, to coddle these objects—to water them or dust them, plug them in or switch them off. It’s no wonder, then, that so many artists fixate on gallery and dealer, making works that incorporate the architecture of the space or bring the viewer’s attention to the guy (or gal) in the back office.

    In Cabinet, 1995, Glen Seator reconstructed

  • Sam Durant

    Installing a sliding-glass door to enclose a space beyond the gallery’s reception area, a suspicious Sam Durant contrasted the workaday practicality of furnishings and building materials with the surface seamlessness of interior design through photographs, drawings, and sculpture. In his five-part sculpture Scrap Recycling Project with American Ingenuity, 1995, Durant attached a high-pressure laminate surface to odd-shaped scraps of plywood and particle board. The smooth laminate was carefully trimmed to the edges of the supports, and the pieces—painted either in the brown, yellow, and ochre “

  • Luciano Perna

    A member of the Toy Train Operating Society, Luciano Perna hung his framed certificate over a setup guaranteed to make fellow model-train enthusiasts either swoon or vomit. While most hobbyists yearn for an ordered miniature world, Perna, with the help of 72 artist friends, prefers the chaotic. His recent installation, Occupato, 1995, mapped a nightmarish terrain that was full of clever asides and images of urban blight.

    Three horizontal surfaces of varying heights—including a ping-pong table, a glass basketball backboard, and a circa 1956 Saarinen-designed, tulip-style pedestal table—sprawled

  • Mia Westerlund Roosen

    It was difficult to read Mia Westerlund Roosen’s 18-ton earth sculpture Madam Mao, 1995, as anything but giant genitalia. In previous works, Roosen used undulating concrete to suggest human forms, but, in Madam Mao modest innuendo finally surrendered to outright literalism. The huge dirt vagina dominated a large gallery space and filled the room with its fertile odor, the mound rising from the floor into a tapered peak. Running down the center was a small canyon, lined with sinuous slabs of pink, curved concrete. This labial, fluted furrow greeted viewers at eye level, offering them an unobstructed

  • James Welling

    At first glance, the group of photographs presented in this show seemed to have absolutely nothing in common with the serial photographs for which James Welling is known. Gone was any thematic link; the selection seemed arbitrary, like a puzzle flown in on the red-eye from nowhere.

    Welling’s past work had used repetition to downplay the significance of any individual image, critique originality, and accentuate the differences that existed among the photographs. His concisely engineered, conceptually tight work was dense with meaning, though virtually opaque to the casual viewer. In one series,

  • Michael Coughlan

    Michael Coughlan combines nylon cords, plywood, a volcano, and some rubber worms to create formally enticing and conceptually complex sculptures that take cheerful jabs at both Minimalist sculpture and traditional painting.

    A gnarly sheet of mid-grade plywood, Still Life (all works 1994) is adorned with black nylon spider webs. Squiggly black rubber worms nestle in the carefully drilled holes. This artificial infestation turns this piece into a parodic still life: premature, manufactured decrepitude coupled with well-fed, fake vermin. The taut webs are unadorned by their real-life counterparts,

  • John Souza

    John Souza’s “Rememberentering” consisted of seven large wall pieces and one that was petite—like Snow White and her dwarfs in reverse. Issues of architecture, death, memory, and narrative were all addressed in this show, but it was the tiny elements that made the work compelling. The quizzical decisions, non sequiturs, and deliberate craftsmanship roped the viewer into these frisky and deadly serious sculptural constructions.

    Long titles suggested their own narratives. The title of one work, Past the Moat, the Drop Gate and Iron Doors, the Intruder Advanced Toward the Castle’s Murder Hole and

  • Steven Pippin

    With magic hands and technological wizardry, Steven Pippin has transformed toilets, bathtubs, and, most recently, a trailer home, into fully functioning pinhole cameras. His recent show, “Interior,” consisted of three projects: one piece (a 40-foot photo mural and its accompanying camera) shared the show’s title and presented a twist on the century-old game of photographing the American West. Like Timothy O’Sullivan, who carted glass plates and tent darkrooms aboard the backs of uncomplaining donkeys in the late 1800s, Pippin also uses cumbersome equipment. But, unlike O’Sullivan, Pippin’s

  • Franz West

    Some of us have a phobia of couches—of the small larvae, germs, and imprints of past sitters that occupy their dense and foam-filled folds. We sit lightly, carefully, lest a cloud of skin cells gust up to envelop our sinking buttocks. It is ill-advised to sit naked on someone else’s stuffed furniture.

    A bevy of brilliantly colored couches in MoCA’s outdoor plaza comprised Test, 1994, Franz West’s first site-specific museum installation in the U.S. A similar set of furniture installed at Documenta was covered in drab carpets. The 28 couches installed here are festive, bright, and clashing. Along