Liza Lou (b. 1969, New York; lives and works in Los Angeles) first gained attention in 1996 when her room-sized sculpture Kitchen was shown at the New Museum in New York. Representing five years of labor, this groundbreaking work subverted prevalent standards of art by utilizing glass beads as a fine art material. As a monumental work of twentieth century feminist art, Kitchen’s slow, hand-made process is a tribute to women whose work has historically gone unrecognized. The project blurs the boundary between fine art and craft, and established Lou’s long-standing exploration of materiality, beauty, and the valorization of labor. Centering her practice on a craft métier has led Lou to work in collaboration with artisans in a variety of socially engaged settings, including recent projects in Brazil and India, as well as Durban, South Africa, where she founded a collective in 2005 that she continues to work with today.
Over the past 15 years, Lou has focused on a poetic approach to abstraction as a way to highlight the process underlying her work. In 2016, Lou constructed The Waves, a monumental installation comprised of 1,000 white beaded sheets that were marked by the transference of oils from the hand of the maker and variance of their weaving. This lead to Lou’s investigation into the potential of a minimalist approach, and ultimately the most fundamental components of visual art—color, light, line, volume and texture—recreating beads as paint, mixed and bound to canvas. Lou’s practice can be described as a careful study of the forms and conceptual function of minimalism, but without the associated dogma of the absence of personal expression and erasure of the hand of the maker. The artist has recently begun painting directly onto layers of beaded cloths and then hammering the beads away to reveal the delicate network of paint-soaked thread hidden inside them. In choosing to dedicate her career to one specific material, Lou has recalibrated the confines of the singular mediums of art— painting and sculpture—pushing a material not traditionally associated with either across the spectrum to both ends.
Liza Lou has had over 40 solo exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world including Lehmann Maupin Seoul (2019), New York (2018), and Hong Kong (2017); Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art, Cape Town, South Africa (2017); Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, Austria (2016); Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY (2015); Wichita Museum of Art, Wichita, KS (2015); White Cube, London, United Kingdom (2014); Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA (2013); SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2011); L&M Arts, New York, NY (2008); Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Germany (2002); Bass Museum of Art, Miami, FL (2001); Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH (2000) and the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution of American Art, Washington, D.C. (2000).
Select group exhibitions have included Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950-2019, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2019); Less Is a Bore: Maximalist Art & Design, Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, MA (2019); Lexicon: The Language of Gesture in 25 Years at Kemper Museum, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO (2019); We the People: New Art from the Collection, Albright Knox Art Museum, Buffalo, NY (2018); Screens: Virtual Material, DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA (2017); No Place Like Home, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel (2017); Women’s Work, National Gallery, Iziko Museum, Cape Town, South Africa (2016); Home Land Security, FOR-SITE Foundation, San Francisco, CA (2016); Stories of Espai 10 and Espai 13, Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, Spain (2014); The Artist's Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2010); Skin Fruit: Selections from the Dakis Joannou Collection, New Museum, New York (2010) and 19th Century and Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2010). Lou’s work is in numerous international public and private collections, including the Albright Knox Museum, Buffalo; Brant Foundation, Greenwich; Cleveland Museum of Art; Cleveland; DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, Athens; de Young Museum, San Francisco; François Pinault Foundation, Palazzo Grassi, Venice; La Fondación Jumex, Mexico City; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Skira Rizzoli published the first comprehensive monograph of the artist’s career in 2010. Liza Lou is the recipient of the 2013 Anonymous Was A Woman Award and the 2002 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.