Magazine article Artforum International

Liesl Raff: SOPHIE TAPPEINER

Magazine article Artforum International

Liesl Raff: SOPHIE TAPPEINER

Article excerpt

The works in Liesl Raff's recent show "Maximal Soft" promised to transform and mollify the unfeeling hardness of the materials of heavy industry. Typically, this meant making them anthropomorphic: The two large almond-shaped steel-plate tables at the front of the room, for example, titled Eyes 1 and Eyes 2, both 2018, had steel irises mounted on a lazy Susan, and on their rims were rows of slag, dripping plasma-cut tears of steel. Similarly, three wall-hung pieces, Head 1-3, all 2017, were constructed from bent and unevenly cut sheet steel. Their anthropomorphic appeal was underlined by their hanging at eye level; in place of actual heads and faces, however, they possessed oval or semicircular flat steel surfaces, made to appear softer through the addition of an oily silicone "makeup." While the "softness" of these anthropomorphic objects was mostly metaphorical, actual material softness was introduced to the show by three sculptures, Twist 1 and 2 and Hanging, all 2017, that featured colored latex ribbons dangling from wall-mounted steel elements.

Throughout the show, Raff's sculptures were strongest when her techniques and surface treatments, rather than metaphors indicated by way of the works' titles or even their forms, invoked semantic potentials not commonly associated with her materials--as evoked, for example, by peculiar objects made of modified industrial steel sheets. The artist's handcrafted modifications, and in particular their amateurish execution--exemplified by the uneven edges of the Eyes and Head pieces, or the encrusted proliferations of epoxy on the bases of Twist 1 and 2-- supplanted the "hard" industrial origin of the materials with the artist's soft meanderings and stochastic reworkings. …

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