Shotgun Review

Ruth Laskey/ Lee Lozano: Notebooks 1967-70

By Jessica Brier September 14, 2010

It’s refreshing to observe that we seem to be safely past the moment of asking why there are no great women artists. Not only does Ratio 3’s current pairing of exhibitions present both up-and-coming and established examples of great women artists, it features women working in the vein of Minimalism and Conceptualism, two movements that were not exactly associated with femininity (and vice versa). Ruth Laskey’s newest work, seven weavings from her Twill Series, is cleverly contextualized by a show of rare works on paper by Lee Lozano, along with photocopies from Lozano’s notebooks, curated by Steven Leiber from his exceptional personal collection of Conceptual art and ephemera. The relationship between new work by Laskey, a young, emerging artist, and that of Lozano, a now-historical example of instruction-based, ephemeral Conceptual work, creates an incredibly pleasing feedback loop. Lozano’s sense of humor and pared-down aesthetic ignite the personality of Laskey’s unbelievably meticulous weavings. Perhaps most importantly, the inclusion of Lozano’s work positions Laskey’s geometric, abstract works in the traditions of Minimalism and Conceptualism, rather than pinning them to the typical associations with fiber art. Without doing so in any explicit way, these exhibitions stake an important claim on these works as feminist, if for no other reason than that they are not.

Laskey has taken her process of hand-dying and weaving stark, geometric forms to what Lozano intimates is the next logical step: bending straight lines into curves. Laskey has also found a way to “bend” color, using a fading technique that makes these flat forms look like they are vibrating. 

Installation view, Ruth Laskey at Ratio 3. Photo courtesy of the Artist and Ratio 3, San Francisco.

She uses her materials in a way that I’m not sure I’ve seen before, using thread, dye, and a loom to make works that approximate painting much more closely than textile art. Laskey’s nod to painting is underscored by her choice to matte and frame the pieces under Plexiglas, which also makes them feel like drawings. Laskey’s unique interpretation of the work on paper again leads us back to Lozano, whose primary tools were notebooks, paper, pencil, and pens. Lozano’s witty and almost dismissive style of writing brings new dimension to Laskey’s tedious, meditative process; I amused myself imagining some of Lozano’s thoughts seeping into Laskey’s head while she works. By the same token, seeing Lozano’s drawings adjacent to Laskey’s weavings gives the works on paper a meditative quality that resonates beyond Lozano’s witticisms. Here, seriousness, poetry, and humor can coexist harmoniously. The dialogue between these two artists—in the gallery and, I suspect for Ruth Laskey, in the studio as well—is apparent and animates the work in a refreshing way.


Ruth Laskey and Lee Lozano: Notebooks 1967-70 are on view at Ratio 3 until October 23, 2010.

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