Lisa Beck

Fort du Bruissin Centre d’art contemporain, Francheville (Grand Lyon)
8 December 2012 - 17 March 2013
Curated by Caroline Soyez-Petithomme

This is the 10th exhibition of the Fort du Bruissin, Francheville’s Centre of Contemporary Art since its rehabilitation in 2008. For this event, the Fort du Bruissin invited Caroline Soyez-Petithomme, artistic director of la Salle de Bains in Lyon, as curator of the exhibition. She proposed to present the work of the American artist Lisa Beck throughout the center.

As suggested with the exhibition title "Endless", Lisa Beck’s art practice unfolds as a continuum and as an open-ended series of (mainly abstract) patterns the artist has been inviting, repeating and displaying since the mid of the 80s.
Lisa Beck’s first solo exhibition in France is the occasion to gather a wide selection of various types of paintings, installations and sculptures, and also early paintings and installations made in the mid-80s and 90s in dialogue with her recent pieces, includind the newest works produced especially for the art centre of the Fort du Bruissin. However, beside the certainties of those already selected works, it is almost impossible to predict what will really happen in-between the moment this press release is being written, and the time the exhibition is installed, in terms of display and content — one of the artist’s main statements being: "It never stays the way it starts. There are always adjustments, accidents, and new ideas that pop up while I am working". 1
Thus, "Endless" follows Beck’s exploration of a mentally and conceptually infinite surface, which is paradoxically made of, as well as interrupted by, the space in-between the works, the architecture and the air. "Molecules, stars, horizons, clouds and lakes"2 is what the artist has always at the back of her mind when she works. And from that she literally abstracts forms, colours, and structures to create evolving rhythmic, symmetric, mirroring or transparent arrangements of objects, materials and paintings.
At the Rhode Island School of Design (where she graduated in 1980), Lisa Beck studied painting, but also film and sculpture. Her creation process as well as the media she uses are in no way restrained to the use of traditional techniques like acrylic or oil on canvas, wooden panel, or wall. Since then, Beck has been searching and experimenting abstraction in its broadest sense : inventing patterns, appropriating some existing ones from a wide range of sources from scientific imagery (Unbroken Chain 6, 1985, Eclipse 1 and 4, 2011) to everyday, arts and crafts or DIY objects (Horizon Black, 2010, Observer, 2012).

Beck’s works result both from this combination of mental visions and (sometimes assisted) ready-made objects and patterns, so that this corpus is self-reflexive about the medium of the painting itself and at the same time resolutely and physically leads the viewer’s glance to the outside : to the edges of a painting or of the evanescent pattern (The Shining Path, 1989), and to the exhibition space itself (These VI, 2012, A Momentary Taste, 2012). The artist aims to question our relationship to the close spatial and visual environment, as well as to the Universe. Playing with scale and the use of upside down representational space, she breaks the common vertical or orthogonal plan within which we usually contemplate a painting hung on the wall or walk around a sculpture whose surface is neither transparent nor mirroring.
Like the psychedelic experiences described in Adolf Huxley’s The Doors of Perception (1954), Beck has been obsessed with intricate patterns, with looking at the reality "as a pure aesthete whose concern is only with forms and their relationships within the field of vision or the picture space"3 ; and with transcribing the experience of "the "out there", or "in here", or in both worlds, the inner and the outer, simultaneously or successively".4 For that reason Beck’s exhibitions can potentially be turned inside out. The surroundings and the architecture are always part of the works and involved in manifold technical means and optical effects. For instance : some silver reflective monochromes hung on one wall of a corner reflectcolourful rainbows and repetitive patterns hung on the adjacent wall (Column, 2012, rads, 2012). Some paintings are linked together and/or suspended with wires (Strophic Cascades, 1997, Informed, 1992), and few painted hand-mirrors (ready-made) are also suspended from the ceiling (Cast, 2011). Some of the paintings are leaning out from the top of the wall, bending against the wall or laying down, as a stack, their supposed painted face on the ground (Eleven Untitled Details, 1991). Their pictorial surface — conceived as an infinite space, as a physical and mental all over — continue beyond our field of vision, beyond its visibility: on the intentionally hiddensurface or on the other side of the wall, or on the other side of the mirror. Therefore, colors and forms — like positive patterns — are as important as the voids, the blank spaces or negative forms left in the middle and around them.

As Beck explains, "For me, an artwork is a selection out of a continuum, like a snapshot is a piece of stopped time. I always want to acknowledge that, to say: this is what I’ve come up with, but there are a million other ways it could exist."5 As in the realm of Quantum Physics, all the objects are related to each other and each of them potentially contains all the properties that will determine the final result. However, before they are put in relation to each other and before this precise instant it is impossible to know which one of the particles has any particular property. In Beck’s practice the placement or number of paintings or elements within a piece is a matter of relativity, as they may shifted, adapting to the space, and they remain changeable for subsequent exhibitions. The corpus of works she has been creating since the 90s consists of a continuous set of variations the artist displays according to the dialogue with the curator, to the architectural features as well as to the artist’s mood, like a musical or theatrical improvisation.
Such a fundamental artistic freedom and the flexible status of the artwork is challenging regarding the conception of painting as a finite object — and this can be troublesome especially for the art historian or for the art market, from a commercial point of view: both those fields requiring stable elements or at least a rigorous archival method to record the different states of this permanent flux.

Moreover, Beck’s work gives off the clues of the strong shift of the attitudes of the modernist avant-gardes in the first decades of the 20th Century which renewed the status of painting through various non-vertical displays of paintings (for instance: Malevich’s First Suprematist Exhibition in 1915, featuring Black Square hanging in the corner, El Lissitzky’s Abstract Cabinet (1927), Hebert Bayer’s Diagram of 360 Degrees Field of Vision (1935), Frederick Kiesler’s Art of this Century gallery (1942)), the incorporation of readymades, the rise of the monochrome, seriality and the gestural techniques of dripping, pouring, and staining. And besides that grammar, since the 90s, Beck has recurrently used wires to link paintings together, or to hang them from the walls or from the ceiling. Her early artistic developments were concomitant with German artist Martin Kippenberger’s claims regarding individual paintings which should be explicitly visualized as networks: "Simply to hang a painting on the wall and say that it’s art is dreadful. The whole network is important! Even spaghettini . . . When you say art, then everything possible belongs to it. In a gallery that is also the floor, the architecture, the color of the walls.”6 Coincidentally or in the Zeitgeist of this period, Beck started working with a similar attitude. She also started connecting paintings with each other and having them reflect each other. From that and from Kippenberger’s statement, another significant question arises: How does painting belong to a network (to an endless system)? In that sense, Beck’s practice meets not only the archetypal issues of the modernist avant-gardes about painting, she not only challenges the art historical methods, and art market strategy, but also references mechanical reproduction and the ubiquity of digital networks. And as the artist explains: “The artwork as network is an expression or mirror of the formation of meaning in the mind as it constructs repetitive patterns from the randomness of experience”. 7

Lisa Beck dedicates this exhibition to her late mother Gladys Beck, and her unfailing support and passion for art.

The exhibition "Endless" by Lisa Beck is a collaboration between Le Fort du Bruissin and La Salle de bains.
Le Fort du Bruissin is supported by Francheville, and la Région Rhônes-Alpes. La Salle de bains is supported by ministère de la Culture — DRAC Rhône-Alpes, Région Rhône-Alpes and Ville de Lyon.

1 Lisa Beck in Q&A with Hudson for the exhibition "To Everything," Feature Inc., New York, June 2009, in
"Lisa Beck: Yes, No, Something, Nothing, Never, Always," Feature Inc. Publishing, New York, 2012, p42.

2 Ibid, p 42

3 Adolf Huxley, The Doors of Perception, traduit de l’anglais par Jules Castier, 10/18 éditions du Rochers, 1954, pp 25-26.

4 Ibid, pp 30-31

5 "Lisa Beck interviewed by Bob Nickas," from Lisa Beck: Yes, No, Something, Nothing, Never, Always, Feauture Inc. Publishing, New York, 2012, p4.

6 Martin Kippenberger in "One Has to Be Able to Take It!," an interview with Martin Kippenberger by Jutta Koether, November 1990-May 1991, in Martin Kippenberger : The Problem Perspective, edited by Ann Goldstein, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and MIT Press, Cambridge, 2008, p.316

7 Lisa Beck, email conversation with Caroline Soyez-Petithomme, on October the 23rd 2012


Le Fort du Bruissin

The Fort du Bruissin was built after the war of 1870 by the General Séré de Rivières, called the "Vauban of the 19th century." This fort belongs to the french defense system for the east french frontier in order to protect the city of Lyon. It is situated in a wooded area of 10 hectare. After a rehabilitation conducted by the city of Francheville and with the financial support of the State, Rhone-Alpes Region and the Departement of Rhône, the fort welcomes a center of contemporary art since 2008. The Fort du Bruissin, Francheville’s Centre of contemporary art is operated by the city of Francheville with the financial support of the Rhone-Alpes Region.