Liz Gehrer was born in 1949 in St. Gallen (Switzerland), where she still lives. With her art she wants to convey an unusual vision, a peculiar perception of everyday issues because, unlike what most people think, it is everyday life that is worthy of note, it is the ordinary that conceals the extraordinary. Among others, the themes she deals with are the relationships between human beings, the environment and nature, our exposure to the flow of information, the possibility and the absence of bonds between people.
Paper is Liz Gehrer’s starting point when she creates three-dimensional works. This material embraces the iron skeletons of human figures that she models abstractly, reducing them to a head, a trunk, an indistinct mass of limbs in which the vertical line is accentuated, thus expressing, in a corporeal way, the priority themes of her works: vulnerability and, at the same time, the strength of man and his relationships.
Her art, however, is not only expressed by means of the works created through the processing of cardboard, which Liz Gehrer manages to shape by subjecting this material to the realization of the idea, but also through large installations displayed in the exhibition dedicated to the artist and organized by the Hermann Geiger Cultural Foundation.
The exhibition consists of six sections, each one communicating, in its own language, a profound perception of existence in which the sense of loneliness, fragility and transience of man joins the need for communication and relations with other human beings.
The first section consists of a maze of rusty iron grates on which cardboard human figures have been modelled in thread-like, slender silhouettes: the visitor is therefore invited to venture into this labyrinth of grids, which can be interpreted not only as a structural element but also as a border, from which these abstractly human silhouettes follow his path.
The second section is dedicated to an installation entitled “Beflügelt” (“winged”): a composition of white wings suspended in the air by means of nylon threads conveys a sense of grandeur, lightness and fragility. The vision of the work changes depending on our point of view, on where we stop to observe it; we feel like we are witnessing a slight and elusive flight as we seem to perceive a slight fluttering of wings while moving around the installation. This imaginary flight symbolizes the beauty and difficulty of fulfilling one’s dreams: the resourcefulness, boldness and joy that we put in trying to reach our goals inevitably clash with the obstacles of life that make us precarious and unstable, just like these cardboard wings, suspended in the air, and easily thrown into disarray by even a breath of wind.
Before our eyes are the sculptures that Liz Gehrer has created by giving these iron cores a human silhouette with the simple use of paper, glue and plaster. These thin, elongated figures tell the story of human life: the cardboard is not smooth but wrinkled and rough, furrowed and torn. The sculptures can be assembled in pairs, in groups or presented individually, but in any case they will appear close and distant at the same time, demonstrating the ambiguity and enigmatic nature of human relations.
The fourth section is dedicated to large collages, which were originally posters of beautiful girls used by fashion houses for advertising purposes. Liz Gehrer re-elaborates and transforms these images with the language she uses to tell us about how the human being deals with life and time – a theme that Liz also proposes in the fifth section of the exhibition, focused on the installation “Ins Gras Beissen” (literally “biting the grass", a euphemism for “dying”). The artist laid on the soil of her garden a large advertising poster depicting the face of a charming young woman, then she made cuts into the poster surface. Grass slowly grew through them, and gradually invaded the entire canvas, transforming the girl’s face and eventually concealing it under soft, green turf. On a regular basis, Liz Gehrer photographed the changes produced by nature on the woman’s features. The 19 prints displayed in the exhibition hall (and also on a monitor on which these images scroll in a video form) describe this path of transformation, which symbolizes how beauty and our entire life are both transient and fleeting.
The final installation is entitled “Filter for fine dust”. On the ground are ten white overalls which, inflated by some hairdryers, transform themselves into men. These, by the act of breathing, actually become filters for fine dust while the beautiful girl from the blow-up observes them with an almost amused look.
From 23 April to 29 May 2011
Geiger Foundation, Exhibition Hall, Corso Matteotti 47, Cecina (LI)
Opening hours: from Tuesday to Sunday, from 4 pm to 8 pm. Closed on Mondays.