Elizabeth Dee Gallery - Exhibiting Artist: Lisa Beck

Posted December 14, 2017

(Source: Elizabeth Dee Gallery)

Welcome to the first in a series of gallery published content on exhibiting artists. We want you to get to know the artists better through studio visits, conversations and selected new texts by writers and art historians. First up is Lisa Beck, whose exhibition is on view at the gallery. This is a transcript of a conversation that took place in New York City on November 8, 2017 with Elizabeth Dee in Beck's current exhibition: Rising and Falling.  

Installation view, Lisa Beck: Rising & Falling, 2017, Elizabeth Dee New York. Photo by Etienne Frossard

ED: How do view these paintings in your new exhibition?


LB:  I always view paintings as objects. Mostly when we look at paintings, we’re focusing on the surface, and the image, while the object itself is sort of ignored- it’s just the vehicle for the image/content. Like when reading a book, you usually don’t think, “oh, look at this piece of paper and what font is that…,” you concentrate on the story. You could, but mostly you don’t, because the content is emphasized.


With paintings, I want the physicality of them to be always upfront and equal to the image/ content.  I like to have physical qualities alongside or equivalent to the  narrative. I think that has to do somehow with coming up in the 70s, with minimalism and this emphasis on the object, how everything is an object, and has its own specific qualities. Part of the reason I'm interested in shiny materials and paint applications that can be kind of uncontrolled is that they put an emphasis on the materials and their qualities as having something to say and not just being a messenger. The thing itself is a message, it's not just telling a story, it is a story.


ED:  So you’re relating to sculptural minimalism, the examination of the specific qualities of an object, and the environment created by these, lending to the theater of the object.

LB: Right.  With these reflective surfaces, when you move it looks different, if you're wearing a red shirt and you stand in front it then it looks different, if it's lighter in the room or darker in the room, it looks different, so they have this – for me, anyway, a sense of variability. I try to encourage this sort of sculptural effect, the kind of effect of there being something else to see as you move around a sculpture.

By using simple forms, it challenges you, because it’s simple but also mysterious. It forces you to focus on the physical qualities of the thing, which I find very intriguing.

Lisa Beck, Elements 8 (Rising and Falling), 2017, Elzabeth Dee New York

ED:  Do you think of minimalism as a stripping down to the elemental?

LB: Yes, but in doing that stripping down, it produces this sort of ecstatic involvement with the experience of the present moment and standing in front of this thing.  It’s an experiential thing as much as an analytical thing. There’s a way of viewing minimalism as a kind of relative of psychedelia. Years ago, I saw a cartoon in The New Yorker and it was called Mayberry L.S.D., and it’s Barney and Andy from The Andy Griffith Show, and they’re sitting there really stoned, and one of them is saying, “have you ever really looked at your hands?”

And Minimalism has this same quality of hyper focus on physical details, this particular angle, this particular size, this particular shape, this particular color, this particular placement. You’re almost encouraged to look into the molecules and see how they’re lined up. It’s a sensual, and beautiful, and lush experience, and even though all that is supposedly removed, it’s still there- in fact it’s highlighted. 

ED:   Would this be for you an organizing principle, or the modus operendi of the series? 


LB: In making these paintings, I thought, “Let's take a very limited number of elements, and see how much I can do with them, or how little, and see if it can go to this other, sensual place for people.

And so, a given line in the work, and its relationship to these two dots is a story in itself.  They are so close but not touching, there is a soft area of color right up against a hard, metallic edge, your reflection is causing a change in the shiny surface.  There is a flat surface but it also has depth. That’s one kind of story.

You can also look at it and say, “it’s a horizon, and there’s the moon reflected in a lake,” which is another kind of story.

ED: But the story is not the beginning for you, for you the story is an open source to be driven.

LB:  For me, there's always an abstractive impulse, and a descriptive impulse. I don’t see these as opposite really, but rather two sides of the same coin. 

I’m very involved with formal play, and at the same time there is definitely a landscape/ sky /space feeling in the images. I have always had a deep interest in space exploration, and the astounding fact of these many little balls spinning around the sun and we are standing on one of them. The variation in scale of it all is almost impossible to take in. The earth seems big compared to a person, but it’s a speck, even our sun is on the small side in the larger context. And in the mind it becomes a, a sort of abstraction. I’m trying to see it and understand it by picturing it.

In looking at these paintings, viewers often start talking about skies, the moon, space,  the sunset... But it’s also just lines, and color, and a circle or two.  An artwork can tell more than one story at a time

map Book a Tour favorite Donate alternate_email Email Signup

find events

February 2024
March 2024
June 2024