Liza Lou (b. 1969, New York, NY; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) first gained attention in 1996 when her room-sized sculpture Kitchen was shown at the New Museum in New York. Representing five years of individual labor, this groundbreaking work subverted prevalent standards of art by introducing glass beads as a fine art material. Through its slow, hand-made process, Kitchen became a monument to women whose labor has historically gone unrecognized. The project blurred the rigid boundary between fine art and craft, and established Lou’s long-standing exploration of materiality, beauty, and the valorization of labor. Working within a craft métier has led the artist to work in a variety of socially engaged settings, from community groups in Los Angeles, to a collective she founded in Durban, South Africa in 2005, to a women’s prison in Belém, Brazil, and a bead embroidery collective in Mumbai, India. 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 addition to using the variations of color caused by the natural oils of the human hand as a form of tonal mark-making, the artist applies layers of paint, scraping and wiping it across bead-woven cloths, which she then carves into with a hammer in order to reveal the delicate network of thread hidden inside the beads.
Lou recently began Apartogether, a community art project founded at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic to foster connection and creativity during a time of social distancing and isolation. The project began with a prompt to makers around the world to create a comfort blanket that will be displayed alongside one produced by Lou and other participating artists at the end of quarantine. She has also begun a conversation series with numerous artists around Apartogether to foster open and honest dialogue about what it means to be an artist at a time of great loss and suffering.
Liza Lou has had over 40 solo exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world including Lehmann Maupin Seoul, Korea (2019), New York, NY (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). Recent group exhibitions featuring her work include Heroines of Abstract Expressionism, Nassau County, New York, NY (2021); Listen With Your Eyes, Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, the Netherlands (2021); 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 Gallery, 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, NY (2010).
Lou’s work is in numerous public and private collections, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Brant Foundation, Greenwich, CT; Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH; Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA; Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece; De Young Museum/Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA; Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris, France; François Pinault Foundation, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Italy; Fundación Privada Sorigué, Llieda, Spain; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Hill Foundation, New York, NY; Honart Museum, Tehran, Iran; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; La Fundación Jumex, Mexico City, Mexico; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY [long-term loan]; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar, the Netherlands; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Thomas Olbricht Collection, me Collectors Room, Berlin, Germany; Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, OH; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.
Lou is the recipient of the 2013 Anonymous Was A Woman Award and the 2002 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Skira Rizzoli published the first comprehensive monograph of the artist’s career in 2010 and a new monograph is forthcoming in 2022.
Artist portrait by Mick Haggerty