Lisa Anne Auerbach: Sweater Parade
March 7–April 30, 2022
For more than 25 years, artist Lisa Anne Auerbach has been knitting sweaters emblazoned with slogans, quotes and catchphrases that document her experiences, reflect on history and respond to current events. Usdan Gallery is proud to present “Sweater Parade,” the first survey of this celebrated body of work. The exhibition, a mid-career retrospective, centers on the variety of her knitted apparel and contextualizes it within the breadth of a unique practice rooted in self-publishing, textile craft, punk rebellion and political activism.
At the core of the exhibit are dozens of densely patterned, text-covered garments arrayed across the gallery in a “parade” of knitted projects from the nineties to today. Works include cheerleader combos; sweaters inspired by historical U.S. presidential campaigns; outfits commenting on news of the day, from climate change to Britney Spears to Covid-19; and distinctive hand-knitted pullovers in the Danish tradition of Hønsestrik—or “chicken knitting”—in which sweater patterns embody political expression.
To activate these garments, Usdan Gallery and Auerbach collaborated to stage a Sweater Parade event at Bennington on March 12. Members of the College community wore exhibition sweaters for a procession across campus, propelling the gallery into the outdoors for a celebration of wearable art and free speech. A film of the parade joined the exhibition.
In addition to knitted objects, the exhibition features two other key components: a book room where audiences can explore the artist’s numerous publications, and, on the walls surrounding the sweater procession, a series of 250 small paintings on paper, made from 2016 to 2020, that talk back to events of the Trump Administration. Mimicking Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” the paintings blare taglines of sorrow, hope, outrage and revolt: WE CAN BE HEROES, SAVE YOUR LAST XANAX, NO RIGHTS WITHOUT FIGHTS and MAKE AMERICA VOTE AGAIN are just a few examples.
The resulting abundance of knitted, painted, and printed text forms a clamorous timeline of messages that reverberates across history. One of Auerbach’s publications is a Tarot-inspired deck of cards, evidence of her curiosity about magical thinking versus practical action. (Visitors to the show can receive “psychic art readings.”) Echoing this element of prognostication, there are moments when Auerbach’s reflective and diaristic projects, seen here en masse, can seem prophetic. Presidential phrases about “time,” “change,” and “saving America” cycle with predictability over the centuries. And some of Auerbach’s wry responses to past events can look disarmingly current, such as FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, BIG BOYS NUCLEAR BROMANCE and MADNESS RULES THE HOUR. Yet all is not doom. Equally at play, in the energy of the artist’s hand and her inventive use of language, is an unflagging optimism, a belief in the power of persistence and self-expression.
“Sweater Parade” highlights the pointed humor and urgent seriousness of Auerbach’s work—her critique of modes of inquiry and expressions of ideology and her innovative consideration of the body as a portable site for display.
Lisa Anne Auerbach (b. 1967) is an artist, student and teacher asking questions about agency and voice in a cacophonous world. Her knitted work, publications, and photographs have been exhibited at museums, galleries, bicycle shops and malls in the United States and beyond. She has had solo exhibitions at Aspen Art Museum, Malmö Konsthall, and University of Michigan Museum of Art, and her work was included in exhibitions at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, Parasophia Kyoto International Festival of Culture, Philagrafika2010, and in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. She was a recipient of a City of Los Angeles Individual Artist Grant in 2013, a California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Artists in 2007, and MacDowell Colony Fellowships in 2012 and in 2016. Her recent self-published books include As you so, so you reap, All the Time in the World, and Knotty. PIT, a book of photographs she took at Chicago punk and hardcore shows when she was a teenager, was published in 2021 by The Grass is Green in the Fields for You, Glasgow, Scotland. Auerbach is represented by Gavlak Gallery in Los Angeles.