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Math Bass & Lauren Davis Fisher

The Geometric & the Mysterious

 

They both arrived in Los Angeles on a quest for “something else”: Math Bass had made a short stop in Los Angeles for a performance and felt excited by the expansiveness and contrast to New York, where she grew up, and Lauren Davis Fisher similarly passed through while spending time in New Mexico and felt that LA could provide the kind of space she was looking for to grow her large scale sculpture and installation practice. 

It was 2009, and Lauren’s first night in LA. She was attending a reading organised by a friend. There, she met Math. A few years later, they collaborated on one of Math’s performances. Since then, they have developed an ongoing dialogue that has been instrumental in the development of each of their practices. They each maintain their own studio, and they mostly exhibit their works separately, however, periodically, they carry out collaborative projects, and they discuss their work with each other constantly. 

It’s always interesting to hear about how successful artists first started out…

LDF: I was making art even as a young child, and I was fortunate enough to have very supportive parents. They even converted our living room into a studio! You could say I began sculpting at age 11. I did it all the time. The basement was my treasure trove; I went down there to seek I inspiration and try things out. I worked with wax, clay, wood, and plaster. Since I lived in Boston, I had easy access to the big Museum of Fine Arts, and that’s also where I began taking art classes as a child. Everything there fascinated me, from the Egyptian artefacts to the classic and contemporary art. When I came to LA as an adult, I didn’t know anyone. But all the same, I was fortunate enough to meet a sculptor who was prepared to share a studio space with me. Eventually, I took over the whole studio, and I still use it to this day.

MB: I grew up in Queens. Later on, we moved out to Long Island, I was only about 30 minutes away from Manhattan and spent a lot of time in the city. I had a difficult time in school, and by the time I was in my last year of high school, the only place where I ever really spent any time was in the school’s art room.

After that, I went to a small liberal arts college, which was a much better place for me. It was an alternative and experimental school, in Massachusetts. They didn’t grade the students, they just gave verbal evaluations. That suited me a lot better. And, well… Ever since then, since the age of 19, I’d have to say I’ve been on the same trajectory the whole time.

So, is being an artist in LA as great as everybody says it is?

MB: I was 24 when I came out here from Chicago, so I can’t really say how different it is to life as an artist in New York. But LA is a generative place to live as an artist. All that space and air gives you a sense of unbounded possibility.

LDF: I came here at 26, and when I moved here, it was for good. My works are often large, they’re architectural in scale, and I could never have made them in New York. My sculptures, which were already big, demanded more space. Also, I longed to be in the warmth, and be able to work outdoors.

MB: There’s also a certain psychic space here; and a history of performance, installation and experimentation that continues to carry through to the present. 

Your pieces (LDF) are monumental in scope, but they also possess qualities of the humorous and the surreal. Could you tell us about that?

I am interested in movement and orientation and how objects and materials have the potential to shift in relation to each other. A few years ago, I had an exhibition at the Hammer Museum in LA. I had produced over 30 objects for the space. I then returned to it every week during the three-month run of the exhibition, to rearrange the objects and architecture into new permutations and compositions. The exhibition changed its appearance throughout, like a puzzle that can be solved in an infinite number of ways. Like shapes interacting, or words that can be rearranged into new sentences.

 
 Math Bass was born in 1981 in New York and lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She has had solo museum exhibitions at MoMA PS1, New York; the YUZ Museum, Shanghai, China; the Jewish Museum, New York and the Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA. Public collections include the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles and the YUZ Museum, Shanghai.

Math Bass was born in 1981 in New York and lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She has had solo museum exhibitions at MoMA PS1, New York; the YUZ Museum, Shanghai, China; the Jewish Museum, New York and the Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA. Public collections include the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles and the YUZ Museum, Shanghai.

 Lauren Davis Fisher was born in 1984 in Boston and lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She has exhibited at The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Performa15, New York and MoMA PS1, New York.

Lauren Davis Fisher was born in 1984 in Boston and lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She has exhibited at The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Performa15, New York and MoMA PS1, New York.

To a great extent, I think both of our works address the relationships between forms. It’ll be that way in Stockholm, too, but this time the forms will be mounted on boards on the walls, I like to think of these boards as a vertical ground. 

If I may turn to you, Math, your works are both open and shut; they are deceptively simple, but also mysterious in their use of symbols.
I want to create something open and generous that will be accessible to many. One of the pieces I’ve brought to Stockholm is a sculpture that looks like a rocking chair, like a drawing made in space. The simple joining of planes appealed to me; the way they possess space, gaps, content, and motion.

You live together, but how does your collaboration work in practice? You’ve exhibited works together on several occasions.
We work together sometimes, but we both maintain separate studios. About once a year, we do an exhibition together. However, we’re always talking about the stuff we’re working on. And we work really well together. We’re looking forward to this exhibition a lot, because it’s going to be the first time we exhibit separate works in the same show. It’s like we’re doing a two person show while we’re both in the big show, too. We love it!

One thing I’m wondering is how this artistic freedom matches up with the commercial aspects of the LA art scene. Isn’t there a great deal of pressure?
It’s really easy to be productive and get things done here. You can burrow down and keep all disturbances out. To go anywhere, anywhere at all, you need a car. This also means that you can opt out, and stay at home, out of reach. Our lives revolve around going to the studio, visiting each other’s studios, friends’ studios, and exhibitions.

So, what’s next?
LDF: I’ll be heading out to the desert. It’s an important place for us; we get a lot of ideas there. We have a cabin and studio out there, it’s near the Joshua Tree National Park, and we’ve had it for two years. I have been working on designing and rebuilding parts of the structures on our land. I will be working on the cabin intermittently while I start executing work that will be included in fashion designer Eckhaus Latta’s upcoming show at The Whitney Museum this summer.

MB: I’ll be opening my first solo gallery exhibition in New York, at Mary Boone Gallery, in April. We’ve been in talks for a couple of years now. I’ll be showing a series of paintings with a sculptural sound installation.