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CLOSE-UP: DOOM AND BLOOM

Liz Larner, Orchid, Buttermilk, Penny, 1987, Cibachrome print, 15 1/2 x 19 1/2".

IT MAY SEEM RETARDATAIRE, but I’d like to have an intimate, lifelong relationship with an artwork, becoming so familiar with it that the effects of aging stand out against my memories of our initial acquaintance. Even those who don’t share this ambition are likely to agree that happening upon an artwork that has been too exuberantly restored or conserved can elicit a feeling of betrayal. Perhaps art should be subject to the risks of being alive, allowed to grow old, and even, ultimately, to die. If an entire generation of process and post-Minimal artists broached this possibility—the contingency, failure, and disintegration of objecthood—Liz Larner took the idea one step further. In 1987, she began to produce a group of works loosely referred to as the “Cultures,” in which she sped up her art’s life span, syncing its demise to an exhibition-length timetable. Placing

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