Critics’ Picks

Liesl Raff, Palm 3, 2020, palm leaf, latex, talcum, aluminum wire, 55 x 12 x 4".

Liesl Raff, Palm 3, 2020, palm leaf, latex, talcum, aluminum wire, 55 x 12 x 4".


Liesl Raff

Sophie Tappeiner
An der Hülben 3
June 6–August 28, 2020

To enter this exhibition requires crossing the physical and symbolic threshold of a steel, latex, and palm leaf structure resembling a hastily constructed cabana roof and suspended at a forty-five-degree angle to the gallery’s front facade. For this work, titled Transition 3 (all works 2020), Liesl Raff rubbed silicone oil into the tensile latex and sprinkled talcum powder onto the brittle palm fronds, taking care to modulate the materials’ hue and moisture. Framed by this mise-en-scène, the exhibition explores how a post-Minimalist lexicon might create intermediary states in daily life. 

Take, for instance, the series “Pool”: five wall sculptures that deliver promises of water only by connotative proxy, through layers of translucent epoxy resin. Contrasting with their liquescence, each “basin” has been enveloped in latex and nylon netting suggestive of the warp and weft of woven basketry. There’s also Cascade, a towering monument of palm leaves that fall to the ground like a bouquet of solid droplets; “Palm,” single fronds hardened into totems; and “Snake,” a procession of five steel pipes, partially embalmed in latex, marking the walls of the gallery’s downstairs room. Here, with lights turned low, a looped video titled Shell shows a conch simultaneously spouting and retracting water in a chintzy bathtub.

According to Raff, this environment was inspired by her encounter with Casa Barragán, the studio and residence of Luis Barragán. Like the renowned Mexican architect, her orchestration of space invites us into a dialogue with organic and manmade materials, objects, and forms. There is beauty here, but also intentional handmade imperfections that deny Barragan’s metaphysical aspirations and ground us, unapologetically, in the mundane.