Liza Lou

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"she spent five years applying them to the surface of a true-to-scale, fully stocked kitchen"


Color Field, 2016

For those who wear glasses, the artist Liza Lou suggests taking them off when viewing her newest work, “Color Field.” The site-specific installation, a monumental, iridescent grid of colors, is part of the exhibition “Liza Lou: Color Field and Solid Grey” at the Neuberger Museum of Art. “Color Field” blankets most of the floor of the Theater Gallery, requiring museumgoers to walk around its periphery. As they do, the piece seems to shimmer and transform: now airy, now dense; patterns emerging and disappearing; tonal relationships continually shifting.

What creates these qualities (which are, perhaps, especially appreciated with less-than-crisp vision) are tiny cylindrical glass beads in 30 hues, among them vibrant blues, yellows, reds and greens. Grouped by color, the beads are stacked on 4-inch-tall stainless steel wires to form what Ms. Lou called “blades of grass.” Again grouped by color, the blades are inserted into holes drilled into white Signex plastic tiles, each a little less than a foot square. There are 1,196 tiles, with 576 blades per tile and 11 beads per blade, which comes to approximately 1,100 square feet of nearly 700,000 blades and more than seven million beads.

Although “Color Field” is Ms. Lou’s largest work to date, such quantities are not new to the artist, who was named a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellow in 2002. Glass beads have been her trademark since the 1990s, when she spent five years applying them to the surface of a true-to-scale, fully stocked kitchen. Since then, Ms. Lou has beaded structures including a full-scale model of a flower-filled suburban backyard, a 1949 Spartan Mobile Mansion trailer, a chain-link enclosure topped with barbed wire, a life-size reproduction of a cinder block prison cell and two versions of a mile-long coiled rope.