Lisa Lapinski | Whitney Bienniale 2006: Day for Night
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York | 27.10.–26.11.2006
Born 1967, Palo Alto, California; lives in Los Angeles, California
Lisa Lapinski’s imaginative sculptures incorporate mainstays of their genre—wood and wire, cement and clay—as well as painting, photography, drawing, and more unconventional materials such as ornate wallpaper, nail salon advertisements, boxed foodstuffs, and Snoopy figurines. Her work often resonates with narrative meaning deriving from philosophical, historical, and psychological sources. For example, a recent installation, Analysandom (2003), alluded to the emotionally charged environs of a psychiatrist’s office; a 2001 installation of sculpture contained objects that referenced the North African journeys of French poet-turned-mercenary Arthur Rimbaud. Lapinski’s sculptures are intricately crafted and formally compelling. Yet through her unexpected combinations of imagery and materials—both playful and foreboding—viewers are drawn to attempt a deciphering of the uncertain narratives. Nightstand (2005) was inspired by the iconography of Shaker gift drawings depicting religious ecstasy. Permitted during a brief mid-nineteenth-century revivalist interlude, such visionary drawings departed from the prosaic functionality of Shaker furniture. Lapinski conjoins these opposing aesthetics in what she calls “a piece of Shaker furniture that would appear to be an artifact of frenzied religious experience.” The very structure of Nightstand reflects this sense of manic energy, and the piece requires apprehension from several vantage points. The drawers of the four walnut sewing chests that form its base are open, revealing other drawers nesting inside. Elaborate multicolored patterns of wood caning and framed reproductions of Hungarian-born French artist Gustave Miklos’s Art Deco bird sculptures jut out in parallel and perpendicular configurations, sleek stand-ins for the folksy birds that appear in Shaker gift drawings. Workaday materials are interwoven with elements of whimsy: wooden stars of David and trapezoids are attached as decorations to the otherwise staid sewing chests; three jewelry display hands are laced with a gold costume necklace running through their fingers; a vibrant painting of a cape-clad female skeleton traversing a swamp accompanied by a frog adds a particularly incongruous touch.
Lapinski imports materials and histories to generate new forms: “I don’t think any material dies,” she has commented. The components of her sculptures lead double lives—as discrete objects with their own pasts, and as interconnected parts of the artist’s sculptural constellations, in which histories collide and meanings multiply.