Lisa Kokin’s Extraordinary Works Spin Thread and Shredded Money into Poignant Social Commentary.
Seager Gray Gallery presents Lucre, a one-person exhibition of masterworks in thread and shredded money by artist Lisa Kokin. The exhibition will run from April 3 to May 1, 2018 with a reception on Saturday, April 7 from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. There will be a gallery talk with the artist at 3:00 on Sunday, April 22. The exhibition is accompanied by a full color catalog with essay by Renny Pritikin, Chief Curator at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.
Kokin has always been brilliant at combining meticulous process, limited materials (mostly thread, but in this case thread and shredded money) and astute social commentary into works that seem nearly impossible to accomplish. In Lucre (the title alone a pithy reflection on the corruptive power of money), Kokin uses currency that has been shredded acquiring it in bags ordered online from the Bureau of Printing and Engraving.
“I like money in its shredded state because it is stripped of value and power,” says Kokin. “Worthless, it becomes just so much green and white confetti. It is literally not worth the paper it’s printed on.” “No one values money in this impotent state. It no longer has the ability to poison relationships, influence elections, create privilege and misery and threaten democracy. Stitched together with metallic thread into textile fragments or wrapped around wire and made into crowns, the material is re-contextualized with a new value and purpose. When sliced-up and decontextualized, money is really quite mysterious and beautiful.”
Some of the larger wall works in the show make reference to the current president’s plan for a border wall, made of money both literally and figuratively. Works like (De)portable, Wall and Beyond the Pale are all various representations of a fence or wall. As noted in the catalog essay by Renny Pritikin, “On a further level, it (Beyond the Pale) also invokes the artist’s Jewish heritage as the Pale was the part of 19th century Poland/Russia/Ukraine where Jews were not permitted to live.”
A series of small works resembling ceremonial cloths are entitled Almighty. Laying aside the rich associations with the almighty dollar torn to shreds, these works are stunningly pleasing in and of themselves. There are seven of them altogether, each denoted by some fragment of print seen on close inspection, (Almighty Wa, Almighty Er, Almighty No. . .).
“Rich” is a funny way to refer to an exhibition made entirely of money, but this exhibition is rich in every way, visually, contextually and materially. The medium is part of the message here - the painstaking repetitive process that is always evident. No one could do this quickly or without a studied focus. It might be suggested that no one but Lisa Kokin could do it at all. This is incredibly amplified when money is the material and the connection between labor and reward is considered.
Once again, to quote the Renny Pritikin’s catalog essay, “Kokin is a master who has been making art involving sewing, fabric and the like since well before the turn of the century. Such work requires long hours of both planning and execution, often to the extent that they become meditative, almost trance-inducing disciplines. Lucre has been built exactly in that way. The result is elegant and utterly resolved, deliciously satisfying in its formal completeness.”
Says Kokin, "One finds inspiration in the most unlikely places. Take the last presidential campaign, for example. Rather than give in to despair, I pulled out my shredded money and got to work making the Lucre series. The series is made with money, thread and nothing else (well maybe a bit of wire for the sculptures). Aesthetically, it’s all about the joy of limitations, psychologically it’s all about preserving my mental health."