Lisa Anne Auerbach

GAVLAK | Los Angeles
1034 N Highland Avenue
September 13, 2014–October 18, 2014

Lisa Anne Auerbach, The Natural World, 2014, knitted wool on linen, 80 x 63".

Dubbed the “Empress of Modest Propaganda” in the 2014 Whitney Biennial catalog, Lisa Anne Auerbach has been at the center of an alt-publishing mini-empire since 2004, when she first added a knitting machine to her existing practice as photographer and printer, and began pursuing the politics of consciousness via rabble-rousing sweaters, placards, printed matter, and zines. All of the above are represented in this jam-packed survey, “Spells," the irrepressible results of a free-running experiment in non-mass media and communication.

Everywhere, there is text: tapestry-size banners catalog real and imagined hashtags and the declarations of psychics; sixty-inch “megazines” offer travel notes and lovely, large-format photographs of soul-crushingly ugly megachurches. There are enough declarative woolens to fill a walk-in closet, including Oops! Toxic B.S., 2014, a fetching, Britney Spears–themed pantsuit with “Work!” and “Bitch!” stitched into either butt cheek. Self-publishing is always also a form of disclosure for Auerbach, whose plainspoken, caustic sense of humor establishes a consistent tone and highlights her intensely personal engagement with the materials. The knitted banner The Natural World, 2014, invites the viewer to become a reader and, in the process, a psychic detective, piecing together a biography by way of bibliography. Totemic black cats watch from the shadows.

The exhibition’s title alludes to Auerbach’s long-standing interest in witchy, performative uses of text across multiple media. By transposing hashtags, dumb jokes, and the campaign slogans of yesteryear into durable machine-knit textiles, Auerbach invests these fleeting bits of language with a jarring sense of keepsake gravitas and timelessness. It’s a sleight of hand as much temporal as textual, a bend in time that happens when otherwise hasty words stick around for a spell.

— Alexander Keefe