In a world of Kindles and iPads, one artist casts a spotlight on the book, not just as a readable or storytelling device but as a physical reality from which we draw associations. Great collectors have always gravitated towards artists who best reflect the culture in its current state. Lisa Kokin’s uncanny ability to encapsulate the issues and concerns of her contemporaries has garnered her critical attention and appreciation from both institutions and collectors.
It is impossible to fit Lisa Kokin’s work into a mold. Even before the viewer discovers the hidden meanings and humor behind her work, they are struck by the elegance and superior workmanship of the objects themselves. Recently, Kokin has been collecting self-help books. She takes the books apart and reworks them, often sewing them or pulping them, finding a configuration that exposes some aspect of our culture. It was while she was visiting her 98 year -old mother in a skilled nursing facility that she noticed that the uncovered mattress next to her mother’s bed carried the brand name “Panacea Plus”. She was struck by the irony. She knew that she had found a title for her show. Since the definition of panacea is “something believed to cure all human disorders,” Panacea Plus seems like a particular bit of product-naming overkill, but so are some of the books that Kokin collects. There are books that promise health, wealth, a thin body and peace of mind, often in seven days or less.
Intrinsic to Kokin’s work from the beginning of her long and successful career is process: repetitive motion and meticulous detail. In many ways process is a message in itself –art making is a way to spin anxiety and dread into something ordered and whole.
Catalog Essay by Alisa Golden