Art review: Ilan Lieberman at Steve Turner Gallery


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Dreams become reality quite literally in Ilan Lieberman’s beguiling work at Steve Turner Contemporary. The Mexico City artist has created sculptures and a video based on art works seen in his dreams – gawky figures made of painted canvases, a portrait of William S. Burroughs composed in pebbles, a simple white pajama top in a cardboard box.

The conceit is a bit cute, but the idiosyncratic items are enlivened by brief wall texts recounting the accompanying dreams. We learn that the canvases are Lieberman’s own paintings (mostly bad, surrealistic landscapes) from the ‘90s, and that the figures were shown to him in his dream by gallerist Monica Manzutto. Lieberman writes, ‘I told Monica that my work had improved since then, but she seemed to like the work.’ This gentle affirmation of the artist’s older pieces recasts the otherwise mystifying sculptures as cumulative self-portraits, a playful reckoning with the past.


Yet why make the objects at all? It’s tempting to dismiss the show as little more than a dream diary in three dimensions. But Lieberman’s careful attention to detail communicates an earnest desire to make the dream objects as real and concrete as possible. The flesh-colored stones in Burrough’s visage are painstakingly arranged; the pajama is enshrined in a Plexiglas case with a golden plaque. And a giant pair of oatmeal-colored woolen pants slung over a rope in the back of the gallery is so perfectly lighted that it appears to glow in the darkness. This last piece comes closest to re-creating the sensation of dreaming, where intense, often nonsensical images emerge out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. Lieberman’s work expresses a palpable longing to bring that mysterious inner world to light.

– Sharon Mizota

Steve Turner Contemporary, 6026 Wilshire Blvd., L.A, (323) 931-3721, through March 13. Closed Sunday-Tuesday.

Images: Dream # 27 second version, 2010 (top) and Dream # 7, 2008. Courtesy of Steve Turner Contemporary.