2019 Acquisition Announcement: Noctilucent (2018) by Liza Lou

2019 Acquisition Announcement: Noctilucent (2018) by Liza Lou

Media Room

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI––May 10, 2019––In celebration of the Museum’s twenty-fifth anniversary year, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is pleased to announce the first acquisition of 2019 to the Museum’s Permanent Collection is Noctilucent (2018), by world-renowned Los Angeles-based artist Liza Lou.

Exemplifying the language of gesture present throughout the history of collecting and exhibiting contemporary art at Kemper Museum, this work demonstrates an innovative use of materials, is representative of the Museum’s artist-centric focus, recognizes an artist whose 1998 exhibition at the Museum remains one of the most regarded, and continues to thoughtfully grow the Museum’s Permanent Collection with works by significant women artists.

The purchase was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Bebe and Crosby Kemper Foundation, UMB Bank, n.a., Trustee.

"Noctilucent (2018) is a stunning work,” states Erin Dziedzic, director of curatorial affairs at Kemper Museum. “It is strong, layered, and poetic. In addition to its visual impact, this is also a work that expresses Kemper Museum's passion for sustaining meaningful relationships with artists throughout their careers.” 

Liza Lou (American, born 1969) first gained national attention when her room-sized sculpture Kitchen was shown in 1996 at the New Museum in New York, and at Kemper Museum in 1998. Representing five years of solo labor, this groundbreaking installation introduced audiences to glass beads, a material Lou has consistently used throughout her artistic practice.

Through its slow, handmade production process, Kitchen (1991–1996) became a monument to women whose labor has historically gone unrecognized. The project established Lou's exploration of materiality, social practice, and confinement.

In 2005, Lou moved to KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where she employed a team of Zulu women, versed in the tradition of beadwork. Working side-by-side with women artisans provided the artist with an opportunity to reconsider her practice in a non-Western, historical, and sociological framework and to highlight material and labor as subject matter in themselves.

Over the past decade, Lou has focused on a minimal palette using the natural variations of color caused by the sweat, oils, and imperfections of the human hand. In her monochromatic, pixelated, woven 'paintings' with beads, subtle variations and streaks reveal a humanity and beauty beneath the repetitive and invisible process of the work's creation.

Noctilucent (2018) will debut in the upcoming exhibition, Lexicon: The Language of Gesture in 25 Years at Kemper Museum, honoring the impact of Kemper Museum’s collecting and exhibitions history while recognizing an expounding dialogue with the history of the gesture. The piece was included in Liza Lou's landmark exhibition, Classification and Nomenclature of Clouds, at Lehmann Maupin in 2018, her first exhibition in New York in a decade. Noctilucent refers to delicate clouds that appear in the upper atmosphere, formed of ice crystals. To capture this transformation and mutability, Lou painted over the surface of the beads, and then layered additional woven cloths where the beads had been crushed away atop the painted forms, creating a sfumato effect that ultimately challenges the limitations of her chosen material.

Lexicon opens at Kemper Museum on Thursday, May 16, from 6:00–8:00 p.m., and will present a selection of works by artists who have shaped the Museum’s exhibiting and collecting history since its founding in 1994. On Friday, May 17, Liza Lou will give an Artist Talk at 6:00 p.m. in honor of the Museum’s twenty-fifth anniversary, exploring how her work has evolved over the past two decades. 

Support for Kemper Museum is generously provided by members and donors. Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is open 10:00 a.m.– 4:00 p.m., Tuesday–Wednesday; 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m., Thursday and Friday; and 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. All exhibitions and public programs at Kemper Museum are free.


About Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
Kansas City’s renowned FREE contemporary art museum, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art opened in October 1994 and boasts a growing Permanent Collection that uniquely bridges modern and contemporary works of art featuring artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Keltie Ferris, Helen Frankenthaler, Hans Hofmann, Rashid Johnson, Joan Mitchell, Richard Mosse, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Ursula von Rydingsvard. Special exhibitions, installations, lectures, and workshops, as well as youth, teen, and family programs are regularly hosted at the Museum. 

For high-resolution images, interview requests, and general media inquries please contact:

Breeze Richardson
Director of Marketing and Communications
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
brichardson@kemperart.org | 816-457-6132 (direct)

Image credit:
Liza Lou, Noctilucent, 2018, oil paint on woven glass beads on canvas, 97 x 97 x 3 inches. Collection of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri, Bebe and Crosby Kemper Collection, Museum purchase made possible by a gift from the Bebe and Crosby Kemper Foundation, UMB Bank, n.a., Trustee, 2019.01.01. © Liza Lou, 2018, courtesy the artist and Lehman Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul. Photo: Joshua White

Download: 2019 Acquisition Announcement: Noctilucent (2018) by Liza Lou (pdf)