Lisa Holzer @ Rowing reviewed

, 18 May 2015

‘Hello, I’m here’, or ‘Hi, this is what I’m doing,’ is a remark that Berlin and Vienna-based artist Lisa Holzer’s work implies , making itself at home inside your stomach and your head. There is a transparency with which this work conducts itself like in Holzer’s recent performance for the opening of I Did Love You Once at Vienna’s Galerie Emanuel Layr where she a) cooks spaghetti, b) lays a piece of it out on the ‘transparent but milky surface’, stroking it like a single strand of hair and c) photographs it with a large, intended flash. The flash and the spaghetti together feels like a relationship and one that you have seen directly into or inside of and as a result, cannot thus un-see, un-do or un-stick. That Holzer displays eight new pieces at Rowing in the same 92 x 72cm milky-thick white frames she has previously used throughout her practice, holds perfectly the recurring sense of something or someone trying, openly, to hold on to something.

Lisa Holzer, Keep All Your Friends (2015). Exhibition view. Courtesy Rowing, London.
Lisa Holzer, Keep All Your Friends (2015). Exhibition view. Courtesy Rowing, London.

For Keep All Your Friends, running from May 1 to 30, Holzer has put something much heavier inside all but two of her frames in comparison to previous images. Four of the pigment prints on cotton paper host photographs of Camembert cheese where the top rind or layer has been removed, its insides left to melt. All of them are titled ‘The Man Who Is Unhappy’ (2015) and in all of them, the inside of the cheese – whilst still, and importantly, surrounded by a thin layer of its skin – is facing the viewer fully. These four images are particularly head-sized. Applied on top of all eight of the glass fronts is a subtle layer of ‘crystal clear’ polyurethane, which has bubbled into small clear bumps, and which, as is pointed out very clearly in both the descriptive press release and in a text written on top of two other works in the show (both: ‘Head of a Partisan’ (2015), is sweat. Or potentially, condensed breath. It is for this reason that somehow the works inside and behind the glass – despite their gooey and wet everything – can also be dry.

Holzer assembles her content and her materials in a way that is like, ‘oh, please be something more!’ In ‘Head of a Partisan’ (both, 2015) an open crisp packet has been imaged upon by and because of the presence of something above it – a lantern that was doing nothing in Holzer’s studio, if you must know. The paragraph of writing, with its illustrative emoticons layered over the top third of both prints, takes the reader through someone else’s head. Yes, it’s clearly the maker of these things, or these moments in this room, but sometimes also just the head of someone who feels, as the text says, “so out of time, so out of anything” and who thinks about breakfast, “How was breakfast?… You took my breath away. Breakfast?” There is always a relationship, or at least an attempt at one where dissonance crystallizes on the inside of things: the viewer; the affinity with wartime artist, Jean Fautrier – whose titles Holzer has borrowed for hers; and the images. These thoughts crystallize too in this show.

Lisa Holzer, 'The Man Who Is Unhappy' (2015). Install view. Courtesy Rowing, London.
Lisa Holzer, ‘The Man Who Is Unhappy’ (2015). Install view. Courtesy Rowing, London.

The biggest knot is produced by the final print of the room, ‘All Alone’ (2015) – if you go left to right. Inside an egg-shaped dollop of mayonnaise is a small and light inverted image of a cat, which Holzer sourced from the Internet. The combination of elements feels a bit like the flash and the spaghetti again. Keep All Your Friends, another borrowed title – this time from a song by Art & Language and The Red Crayola – could be like juggling. Options are held open on the glass front – the sweat comes out of the Camembert, the transformed inverse crisp packet and the yellow shampoo inside a work, called ‘The Pretty Girl’ (2015), but it could also be going back into it.

Holzer makes good art because in one breath there are so many words but there is also something that stays indescribable: which, as the text, again printed on to ‘Head of A Partisan’ says, “you will not be able to remove”. **

Lisa Holzer’s Keep All Your Friends is on at Rowing Gallery, opening April 30 and running to May 30, 2015.

Header image: Lisa Holzer, ‘Head of a Partisan’ (2015). Detail. Courtesy Rowing, London.