For over a decade, the painter Liza Lacroix and sound artist Reece Cox have been friends, mostly they discuss their studio practice – finding common ground across mediums, but they also share and exchange life events. The itinerant space Midnight Projects second show, “Has This Solved Your Problem of What To Do Next?” presents paintings by both artists, a work from Lacroix’s new series based on reworked photocopies of academic text excerpts, and a sound work by Cox. Marked by the pandemic and a balancing act between penetrating legacy and carrying out artistic revolution, the exhibition grapples with techné. Igniting discussion of how sensations and experiences can be communicated across mediums it is a timely deconstruction of some of the fragments that fit into the passages of time.
During the pandemic, we have experienced a slow-down in time and, on a global scale, mental health has taken a toll. Daily the New York Times posts a set of three different – easy, medium, and hard – Sudoku puzzles. In the exhibition Cox presents three paintings of the popular Japanese puzzles published in the NYT March 11th, 2020 issue. The date marks the day that the World Health Organization announced COVID-19 a global pandemic. As the virus continues to ravage civilizations, we have all, in our own ways, tried to make sense of the senseless; processing large amounts of conflicting information from the news cycle. Cox piece speaks to the ease in which many of us categorize our days: easy, medium, and hard. Increasingly, for some, becoming harder and harder. The paintings evoke that daunting feeling that we all have; that life is a puzzle too difficult to solve – a feeling that might dissipate as you solve the Sudokus in the gallery space.
The two artists have been impacted by the pandemic differently, Cox a performing sound artist whose practice is tethered to live performances fueled by tightly packed dancing bodies has changed drastically. Although he has continued to play music live on radio shows and share recordings online he has not been able to play at his regular venues. We have heard our cities change, some sounds disappearing – cars and the late-night dissonance of party-goers, while others, like birdsong, or for those living closer to hospitals, sirens, have become more prominent. In his sound piece “365 Days” Cox examines the sounds he would have played for others if the world were open, snippets of electronic music and sound ebb and flow to the RPM of a heartbeat. Crisp and methodological Cox’s two works represent neatly compartmentalized the experience of collective loss that, albeit at times narrowly, fit within the linearity of time.
Lacroix’s work is more energetic, erratic, and humorous, counterbalancing Cox attempts toward structuring, her works instead break boundaries, confuse, and skillfully places the viewer in moments where feelings might conflict. Lacroix works with transferring parts of her emotional life, and fragments of art history onto canvas. The large-scale oil on canvas pictures are both awkward and magnetizing with their odd color pairings and bold use of the picture plane. Art with wit is refreshing in these challenging times. Like jumbled and disorderly musical notes, she uses signifiers – colors, shapes – to create abstract works in which some parts or moments on the canvas bear resemblance to something recognizable, but are hard to pinpoint. The artist cites Cy Twombly, George Baselitz, and Lutz Bacher as a source of inspiration for this series. Lacroix’s works were born based on a deep-seated knowledge of the history of painting and conflicting acts of reliance, disregard, and revolt to it.
Through small gestures Lacroix experiments by veering off track from what is traditionally expected from the medium of painting; evoking the human body and its fluids, movement, and sensations of pleasure and pain. An annotated quote by the Canadian philosopher and avant-gardist media theorist Marshall McLuhan further drives home the exhibitions multi- and transmedial angle; “a laughing stock or a shocking study of sexual obsession (The medium and the light, Marshall McLuhan)” is based on a picture sent over text message to Lacroix from Canadian artist Alli Melanson. Together the artists have an attribution system: Lode. As a feminist act of referencing they add ‘Lode’ to a works’ title when it incorporates an idea or element shared or originated by the other. Nodding to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jennifer Stein’s first Xerox series, that unmasks certain colonizing aspects of art historical discourse, Lacroix side-steps or alludes to exploitation by muscularly inserting herself into the McLuhan’s writing by reworking the printed page: photographing, photocopying, enlarging, and annotating – a quote has been circled and the word “whore” is scribbled.
McLuhan coined the term “the medium is the message” in 1964. “It is only too typical that the ‘content’ of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium,” he wrote in “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” which investigated how communications media shaped social change. Overall, the cacophony of mediums that with careful intention are presented in the exhibition and multiple references, mainly in Lacroix’s titles, to the body speak to the ‘sensory turn’ in art history, shepherding the audience to not only pay attention to the visual but also beyond it, to the auditory and sensory experience of the exhibition.
“Liza Lacroix and Reece Cox: Has This Solved Your Problem of What to Do Next?,” April 6-May 6, 2021, Midnight Projects, Mana Contemporary New Jersey. Listen to a conversation between Liza Lacroix and Reece Cox from 2018 on INFO Unltd here.
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Anna Mikaela Ekstrand is editor-in-chief and founder of Cultbytes. She mediates art through writing, curating, and lecturing. Her latest books are Assuming Asymmetries: Conversations on Curating Public Art Projects of the 1980s and 1990s and Curating Beyond the Mainstream. Send your inquiries, tips, and pitches to email@example.com.