New York

Liz Larner

In an installation entitled Chain Perspective Reflected (all works 1990), Liz Larner transforms the gallery into a webbed vortex of stainless steel chains. A series of ten suspended rectangles of diminishing size, constructed from lengths of chain link stretched from the floor to near ceiling and between the walls, leads the viewer toward a central focal point.

Just as one’s eye is drawn toward the vanishing point in a perspectival drawing, one’s body is lead to the center of this literal vortex. The first openings are wide enough to accommodate the viewer and invite one to enter the described volume. Because the perspectival recession is constructed rather than illusionistic, however, one’s progress is soon thwarted, and a feeling of bodily entanglement and constriction becomes palpable as one proceeds. Rather than rope or wire, Larner deliberately uses a heavy gauge link of the sort one might find wrapped around a Harley Davidson motorcycle, which simultaneously invokes a sense of security, punishment, and bondage. Mirrors mounted on the side walls anticipate the viewer’s awakened self-consciousness as one becomes aware of one’s predicament. Arranged in a pyramidal pattern of steps that ascends toward the installation’s focus, the rectangular mirror fragments at no point reflect the viewer intact; from the middle of the chain perspective, one’s body appears multiply fractured compounding the sense of entanglement.

Larner’s installation makes us aware of the fragile limitations of our body, and she reminds us of this condition in another piece entitled To the Wall, which becomes noticeable as we turn to escape the chained snare. Positioned in a far corner like a delicate spiderweb, this spindly work is composed of six leather hides stretched between a frail armature of wire. Constructed again as a sequence of diminishing rectangles suspended by an armature, this work also draws the viewer in. Its supple finish suggests a succession of leather seats, however, unlike the chain work, To the Wall is not engineered to support weight.

Larner’s installation reminds us that perspective in Western art is the sine qua non of pictorial order. Our entrapment by this construct, as reflected in the chain-link model, and its inability to “support” us as suggested in To the Wall, attest to the limitations not only of pictorial convention but of any particular representational model. Perspective, as a pictorial code, is shown to be as debilitating as it is liberating; it is as if the lines of Renaissance illusionistic perspective reflected in Larner’s installation have been slit into our eyes with razors.

Kirby Gookin