Alice Könitz

> The city is like a stereogram, over which the gaze roams. As the vision converges and expands, determining new faculties, to bring out an unexpected reality, concealed in lines of traffic and the layers of torn billboards. The city is Los Angeles, where Andrew Berardini lets himself be guided by Alice Ko?nitz and Kim Fischer.

By an artist of the non-finished, of incessant evolution, and by one who has gathered the fragments of modern fractals and placed them on a yielding fabric. Pieced Together: Alice Könitz and Kim Fisher 1. The flickering blue-white of electric light bulbs casts its radiance across open magazines and unfinished ar- ticles. The light pokes out from my window into a dark city, a sun-faded pastiche of cinematic daydreams, fly-by-night hucksterism, modernist yearning, and border-crossing idealism: gridded, stuccoed, and land- scaped. All of it at this hour shrouded in the hazy orange glow of crooked streetlamps, other lit windows, perhaps with other lookers, lanterning out into the darkness, only disappearing in the fulsome light of the California sun at dawn. Standing at the window, I stare out at the Los Angeles skyline and cross my eyes. Glass and steel towers like dark crystal shards double and blur into crisscrossing shapes, brightly lit billboards tear and fold, the line of traffic jumps with skittering lights. With a simple trick of the eyes, reality can be multiplied, bent and retooled, but for only a moment. Try looking out like this for a whole career. Discovering a place ’s lay- ers of possibility, uncovering and recovering its deep fissures and quiet triumphs, going beyond the quotidian surface and remaking it into some fantastical vision spare and porous, reflective and projective, stories blos- soming from its confluences. That takes a lifetime. The two artists here have given it that. These slyly humored talents have looked out on Los Angeles and seen how easily it morphs and folds, changes and destroys, erects failed freeways and billboards every unneeded desire with blockbuster abandon, both of them bringing it down to the microcosmic textures only truly felt by the sensitive. With their eye games, they see how easily space is made and erased, how in the incidental—from chopsticks to paper scraps—a deeper beauty can be revealed, stories birthed, art extracted. They vivisect this place and I try to find words in the folds. Take it out, tear it apart, piece it together however you need to, unfinishing the finished, fingering slick purity with a wet brush, dismantling desire by simply ripping it up, making all those perfect machined objects littering oppressive landscapes more human with handy constructions and precise paintings, woven in poetry and oneiric movies. Here they claim space, pretend one thing is something else, remove a thing from where it belongs and put it somewhere else. They perform, as Max Ernst said about collage, “a noble conquest of the irrational, the coupling of two realities, irreconcilable in appearance, upon a plane which apparently does not suit them.” The plane here is LA. The two realities are what this place dreams of itself and the sticky material of reality. Only an artist can nobly, irrationally, gracefully bring them truly together. While wholly separate and autonomous, these two artists find different ways to dismantle a place and pry open the otherwise closed.

ALICE KO?NITZ Alice Ko?nitz is a unpretentious maquette for an unknown monument, a monolithic geometric form hand- made with cardboard, a tale told by a car magazine, a kaleidoscopic pentagon with a God’s-eye mirror at its heart, a modernist object in a 24-hour donut shop parking lot, a 13-foot-long open-air museum at the end of a driveway stocked with incidental objects and friends personally collected, a stage occasionally for musicians, a shimmer of light in a gold emblem. Alice Ko?nitz is a raffle in a fancy New York biennial offering a trip to an unfinished freeway and a bed in a scruffy motel. She is a one-woman institution, porous, heartfelt, awkward, both foreign and domestic, driven by inspirations and constructed of humble materials, though certainly or at least seemingly sturdy, built to quietly last out vicissitudes with modest means and intimate intentions. A crafter of her own contexts, Alice Ko?nitz is an outsider who creates an inside. She is provisional abstract and non-functional contemporary furniture, two proud society spouses reclining on it as a golden-eyed ghost lady looks over their coffee tables. Like her adopted city, she is a pieced-together fiction. Alice Ko?nitz looks out at Los Angeles and sees all the grand dreams of modern- ism come true in humble mini-malls. She loves them both, side-by-side, one inside the other, even if they don’t entirely love each other. The first in its hifalutin ideals could never imagine itself so cookie-cutter functional, so kitsch. The second mimics the first, but without ever knowing why. Careless perhaps in its quotations, it does its job with minimal fuss. Such a grand and ramshackle pasteboard city, a lovely place to experiment with follies and case studies, to dream up impossible dreams and make them into buildings, new plazas plunked with legally required art, and quietly the largest manufacturing center in the country. 3. Some of the impossible dreams, born out of the simple need to build and build quickly, functionally. To make the thing needed without ado makes for a landscape choked with the lines and columns of electric poles, the lit-up plastic signs of this or that corporate service or mom-and-pop shop. The structures were made more for cheap speed than enduring intent, but the pragmatism with which they were built is one of modernism’s bastard stepchildren. Every stucco box has distant intellectual parents somewhere, philosophical architectural forebears with big ideas whose offspring sometimes settled in LA for four walls and a roof, built to code, with a place to park. Others trod this territory, marking intellectually diluted modernist forms with human messiness. Sterling Ruby carving graffiti into perfect gallery plinths. Dianna Molzan taking all the defanged manufactured abstractions and making them sing again in idiosyncratic paintings. Kim Fisher adulterating the purity of modernist form in painting with loose, unbleached canvas and subtle references to pop publications and fashion. Every time I see some modernist masterpiece, a perfect John McCracken planked and pristine against a wall, it fills me with a certain kind of un-erotic desire, made corporeal when the yearning to touch it wins over the admiration of its perfect surface. Purity, that modernist ideal, never feels more seductive than when we ’re besmirching it with our bodies. Remember Le Corbusier thought people in the streets ruined the look of his buildings. They were so beautiful, those inhuman sculptures, but they are so much better when marred by our human stains. Institutions and corporations, like Corbu, have a way of making individuals disappear into their monolithic edifices. But when an institution like a museum is only a single person who is not, as is regular enough, a rich and powerful oligarch but a modest artist, the project takes on the institutional gravitas but can maintain the humanity of the individual making it, the microcosm of their lives and thoughts, their community and concerns. The Italian Futurists had a thing against museums, cemeteries worth flooding. Marcel Broodthaers, rather than wait for an expert to stamp his work, opened his own institution, the Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles. Not finding quite the right context she wanted, Alice Ko?nitz made her own. A big, pure idea writ large, made humbly and beautifully human under her direction. Her museum, officially on tour, stood on the driveway next to her studio, more or less without walls, open for free to anyone who cared to follow a hand-painted sign advertising the hours on the high street. If this open-air museum appears unfinished, it’s because it is. Like the Glendale freeway that Ko?nitz celebrated with a raffle and a trip at the Whitney Biennial in 2008, she’s keen on those big visions in the landscape that never quite get fully realized. The freeway’s inchoate form, modern as hell in stark concrete, useless for a time, dropped in the middle of the city, has a special kind of beauty. (Dubbed the Beverly Hills Freeway until the citizens of that wealthy enclave protested with a court full of lawyers and got the project canned in 1975, it stood incidentally next to the empty lot that was once the home of Los Angeles’ first permanent movie studio, itself shuttered not long after one of its owners was mysteriously mur-dered by their Japanese gardener.) But everything alive is unfinished. As am I, as are you. We are not finished really ever until, you know, we ’re done for, curtains, dead. When an object gets finished, it disappears. How many public sculptures, those hulking giants of metal on corporate plazas and town squares, vanish from awareness only days after they’re dedicated? One can easily think of Richard Serra as an asshole for making people’s lives more difficult when he bisected their walkway on Federal Plaza in NYC with a huge hunk of steel, Tilted Arc (1981, destroyed 1989), but we also have to hand out kudos for not allowing his public art from to be whisked away so easily, in plain sight. A few hundred meters from the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen branch in Los Angeles stands a quartet of 32-foot-high hole-riddled silhouettes by Jonathan Borofsky, easily one of the most famous artists of the 1980s. I think hardly anyone knows it’s there. It is invisible. Only the unfinished, provisional, difficult, in-process bits of reality really stick out. Those things that are still alive, prone to shift and change, evolve. Taking the public and making it private, replacing things into new places, crafting grand gestures in humble materials, making space for herself and others dreaming up stories for it all, Alice Ko?nitz, the artist of the unfinished, is all the things listed and none of them at all. She is a work in perpetual progress, much like the city we share, made of light materials and heavy with spirit.