Have human beings permanently changed our planet? What on its surface
seems a simple question, has sparked a new altercate between Geologists
and environmental advocates over what to call the current epoch.
It is a Sisyphean effort to cajole perfection from our tumultuous and imperfect
world. Ever cognizant of this Lipman creates visual metaphors that represent
both humanity’s abundant success and its potential, or inevitable decline. In
an instant the Artist is a stand-in for Man and the environment. Lipman’s
process of sculpting and blowing records her ability to control the material as
the work begins to form. As in Life, the Artist reminds us to embrace what we
may at first see as imperfections - every detail has a role to play in the
Situated center stage in the stand, viewers will come upon Laid (Time-)
Table with Cycads, a fifteen-foot long sculpture the Artist has created from
transparent glass, wood, adhesive and paint. Merging the genres of still life and landscape Lipman juxtaposes
our current era with ages past. The work’s still life composition references historic objects attributed to the
splendor and excess of the Anthropocene layer that humanity will leave on Earth. Drawings, books, chalices,
food, rope, and a viola can be found scattered among crumpled tablecloths and bits of other castoff detritus.
Beneath the table, a shimmering phantasmagoric paleo-landscape unfolds, alluding to deep time. The different
levels of Laid (Time-) Table serve as simulacra for the earth’s strata that mark the geological history of our planet.
The verdant foliage populating the work is informed by the Artist’s time at The Smithsonian Museum during a
research fellowship. It was here that Lipman was inspired to create an interface between her iconic objects of
recent history and ancient botany. The shimmering spikes of the extremely ancient Cycads that pierce the table
in three locations are the result of biotic interactions over millions of years. They invade the accumulation of
objects left in civilizations wake as a startling reminder that even in the most extreme circumstances the force of
Through her meticulous attention to detail and intense creative vision Lipman has presented the viewer with an
astoundingly beautiful interpretation of death, decay and life that defies it’s past, preserves in the present and
gives hope to the future.
Every planned landscape reveals the particular philosophy of its maker; one could say it leaves an allegorical map of the world’s structure at the time of its creation. For example, as early as the 18th century, European gardeners created purposefully ruinous landscapes to suggest a continuum of change in a world where man had only a temporary impact. This lies in stark contrast with 16th century Baroque gardens, such as Versailles, in which nature was forcibly tamed to man’s exacting rule. In Lauren Fensterstock’s current exhibition with Claire Oliver Gallery, we see works drawing from the history of Man’s varied and often contradictory relationship with the natural world.
With a similar faculty as Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, seen as a personal dialogue between an individual and nature, Fensterstock reminds us we must take heed of the global forces impacting our environment. The Order of Things is not a map that paints the world as a whole, but one that seeks discovery in glints and crumbles; in contrast to Smithson, Fensterstock’s work intentionally avoids grand narratives in favor of the fractious, the illogical, and the contradictory. The Order of Things uses theatrical means to create a hybrid natural/unnatural space using the continued potency of nature as a cultural metaphor.
In the exhibition’s title work, a mixed media triptych brings together two ideas of hermetic space: the cave and the collection. Paleolithic cave spaces cypher the origins of human consciousness, yet they seduce with their inability to be truly understood. In contrast, the collection can be seen as the manifestation of our desire to create method and structure. A precedent for The Order of Things can be found in the elaborate shell grottos of 18th century England. These amazing constructions brought together the collection, the decorative arts, and a new found interest in natural science brought forth in the form of an artificial cave. In contrast, the blackness and rigid geometry of the shelves Fensterstock houses her grotto in are reminiscent of the rhythms of Louise Nevelson. The universal aims of these two artists makes a striking contrast with the culturally specific genome of the ‘collection’. The modernist finality of Malevich is present throughout the exhibition in works such as Midden and Claude Glass Cube. Each of these works suggest contradictory beliefs in the structure of the world and the notion of time.
Creating an immersive installation which unfolds to reveal a sequence of elements, Fensterstock borrows from Minimalism, The Baroque, The Picturesque, Earth Art, and the Decorative Arts in turn creating an allegorical narrative that is sinister, confusing, and seductive.
As a whole, The Order of Things draws from a sweeping array of history that spans the Prehistoric, the Enlightenment, the Victorian Parlor and Modernism. Says Fensterstock, “The Order of Things creates the unique condition in which this variety of episteme are able to coexist. My work borrows from these histories to offer a new map of the world inspired by my own sense of its structure: one that is messy, changeable, contradictory and wondrously complicated