It's Craft time again, and Liz Craft's new show at Patrick Painter is a great display of her wit and skill. Upon entering the gallery in Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, one is presented with two signposts to the show: Straight ahead, on the foyer back wall, a title of sorts is painted in black, cursive writing: "Liz Craft, 3 sculptures." It has a funky, low-art feel that immediately suggests a sense of easy familiarity and quick-and-dirty chicness that seems to one-up the clubby elitism of contemporary galleries.
Hanging on the wall to the left of this title is a compelling, lone photo of a pair of sexy legs (adorned in c-f-m black heels) dangling suggestively from a large baby carriage. One wonders if these legs belong to a woman who is passed out, coyly hiding in this countrified hamper, or possibly dead. This carriage, which appears to be made from willow branches or some kind of natural material, is parked in an apparently deserted back alley replete with metal roll-down door, flaking paint and weedy pavement. It's almost David Lynch in tone and tenor.
These images, the title and photo, both suggest a contradiction or set of contradictions that ask the viewer to sit up and pay attention. They also broaden the spectrum of engagement to include the high, the low and the middle ground from pop to advertising, DIY to top drawer.
Walking into the main gallery, one is confronted with Craft's 3 new pieces: Baby Carriage, Tree Lady and Dancing Skeletons. All are large, bronze sculptures. They form an immediate and obvious triumvirate of birth-growth-death.
Coming first upon Baby Carriage, one notices that the carriage (from the photo in the entryway) no longer houses its femme fatale passenger. Now it sports a larger-than-life porcelain egg, pristine in its smooth whiteness. "Is this Horton's egg," I ask myself? A dinosaur's or giant's egg? It sits in such happy coziness waiting to be strolled and walked until the ultimate breaking away. I want to touch the egg, stroke it. I want to remove the egg and jump into that carriage myself to be pushed through life, safe and held. But the fantasies slowly dissolve into hardness, like the shell of the egg, and this carriage becomes some sort of death conveyance for the egg that has no warmth.
Next is Tree Lady, the mythical Daphne, legs thrusting into the air à la Hustler eroticism, already transforming into the tree form that ultimately saved her from Apollo's unwanted advances. Extending from this Daphne's tree/legs are many branches sprouting jade-green leaves made from Aventurine, a translucent quartz known to attract luck, opportunity and abundance. This maiden, although beautiful and evocative, paid a heavy price for her lucky stone.
The final piece, and certainly the stunner of the three, is Dancing Skeletons - a twirl of three, very tall women (apparently finding these particular skeletons took some doing). Their heads are adorned with crowns of roses. Instantly the Grateful Dead poster of the Skeleton with Roses comes to mind, as well as Matisse's iconic painting of female celebration, La Danse. Dancing Skeletons is a beautifully fashioned sculpture; engaging and charismatic. The three skeletons pull each other ever onward in their dance of life, or shall I say death. Walking around this grouping, I couldn't help but be aware of the mix of irony and artifice that emanates from this piece.
After more wanderings in and among Craft's 3 sculptures, I finally left with the certain knowledge that Craft has once again managed to walk that razor's edge between mawkish pastiche and unquestionable sophistication.
- Georgia Fee
(*Images from top-bottom: Liz Craft announcement postcard; Liz Craft, Dancing Skeletons, 2008, bronze and mixed media; Liz Craft, Tree Lady (detail), 2008, bronze and Averutine; Liz Craft, Dancing Skeletons (detail), 2008, bronze and mixed media; Grateful Dead poster, Skeleton with Roses.)