• Liz Larner, Bird in Space, 1989, nylon cord, silk, stainless-steel blocks. Installation view, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, 1991.


    ORCHIDS, PENNIES, BUTTERMILK. A sphere made from sixteen miles of surgical gauze and a cube woven out of thin strips of copper. Sly arranged marriages between rubber and wood; leather and false eyelashes; sand, stone, and bark. Gossamer lattices and sheets of chain. Forms rendered in polyurethane, steel, and bronze; in found objects; in porcelain and ceramic. Viewers who have only encountered Los Angeles–based sculptor Liz Larner’s work piecemeal across her more than three-decade career might be forgiven for feeling a certain bewilderment in the face of the stylistic and material diversity that

  • Liz Larner


    Since Joan Didion’s Where I Was From (2003) and Richard Rayner’s The Associates: Four Capitalists Who Created California (2008), I’d been wanting to read a book about the development of ideas on nature in America. I found it in Jedediah Purdy’s deeply considered and finely laid out After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene (Harvard University Press, 2015). To begin reading it is to open and decipher a compressed and encrypted file on a history of ideas about what nature means at the heart of the Anthropocene. Purdy draws on law, letters, philosophy, science, social science, politics,

  • Liz Larner’s copy of the map locating Chris Burden’s Scale Model of the Solar System, 1983, in Newport Beach, CA, 1988.

    Chris Burden

    IN 1981 (it could have been ’82), Chris Burden came to speak at my beginning sculpture class. I was not an art major at the time and was taking the class as an elective. It is significant that I recall so much of his lecture because my memory usually doesn’t work that way. I can still see his head tipped down slightly, eyes looking up. He had a chilly, metallic affect that skewed against his cherubic face. He seemed a little mean, but not in the punk-rock way I was used to by then. Thinking back on it, I realize he was just intense, passionate, and succinct—a man on a mission who didn’t

  • Judson Powell and Noah Purifoy, Barrel and Plow, 1966, beer barrel and plow mounted on table. Documentary photograph of the work with Darcy Robinson and Judson Powell, Los Angeles, 1966. Barrel and Plow was one of fifty works included in the 1966 exhibition “66 Signs of Neon.” Photo: Harry Drinkwater.


    To better survey the manifold sites of postwar art in Los Angeles, Artforum invited art historians THOMAS CROW and ANDREW PERCHUK, curators MAURICE TUCHMAN and ALI SUBOTNICK, and gallerist HELENE WINER to join in conversation with artists JOHN BALDESSARI, HARRY GAMBOA JR., and LIZ LARNER—a group whose experiences span five decades and some of the most vibrant, vital scenes in the city. Critic and scholar RICHARD MEYER and Artforum editor MICHELLE KUO moderate.

    Michelle Kuo: We all know the myth: “The Cool School,” coined by Philip Leider himself in these pages [Summer 1964]. Leider was speaking of a “new distance,” a remove, which he saw manifested in the adamantine surfaces of the work of the Ferus Gallery artists and which came to stand for LA culture as a whole. But how might we attend to art in LA now, without reducing it to the same clichés about regional or even outsider production that persist, rather astonishingly, in many exhibitions, in much of the literature, and certainly in the market?

    How might we attend to the relationship—if any—between

  • Shelly Silver, in complete world, 2008, still from a color video, 53 minutes.


    To take stock of the past year, Artforum contacted an international group of artists to find out which exhibitions were, in their eyes, the very best of 2008.


    James Coleman, Background, 1991–94 (Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin) Existential photo-novel? Soap opera? Mail-order-catalogue photo shoot? Coleman’s installations, pairing slide projection with synchronized audio, don’t lend themselves to easy categorization. In Background, shown at the Irish Museum of Modern Art this year, the male narrator’s voice adds to the general dislocation, straining earnestly to convey some sort