Over the decades, Liza Lou’s beaded sculptures and installations have transmogrified from illusionistic bedazzlement (as in Kitchen, 1990–96) to more meditative explorations of the process and social implications of beading. Like many traditionally feminine arts, beadwork is usually anonymous and undervalued; in her recent work Lou has trimmed her once riotous palette back, using monochrome to bring attention to what she calls the “lifeblood” of this work: the imperfections that make each piece unique and the extraordinary, overlooked, human effort that goes into each square inch of a beaded surface. In The Waves, Lou’s installation at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Salzburg last summer, off-white glass beads were used to make 1,000 square sheets, each “scaled to the size of an ordinary dish cloth,” that covered the walls of three rooms of the gallery. The uniform format and material suggested anonymous labor and also invited comparisons between things that are ostensibly the same yet quite different when juxtaposed, highlighting the individuality of each square. As with all the artist’s sculptures of the past decade, The Waves was created in collaboration with hundreds of Zulu women in South Africa whom she is careful to credit in interviews, naming some individually, and her respect for their contribution is apparent; indeed, it has become the subject of her work.
Liza Lou, Woven (2016)
- Lithograph in black on Arches watercolor, image 12 x 10 inches, sheet 28 x 22 inches. Edition of 28. Printed by Deb Chaney for the Center for Contemporary Printmaking, Norwalk, CT. Published by World House Editions, Middlebury, CT. $3,500.