Elana Herzog is an artist's-artist with a devoted following among practitioners, curators, and independently minded collectors for her singular ability to marry soft materials with obdurate institutional walls, and her sixth sense for finding the beauty and 'voice' within mass-produced fabrics. For the last two decades, Herzog has been the subject of museum surveys and solo exhibitions in over 20 cities in the U.S. (including her native New York City) and numerous cities in Europe. Her installations are characterized by a mix of rigorous hard work and playful, context-sensitive experimentation, in which the labor-intensive "making" (literally hundreds of hours of sheet-rock building, pneumatic stapling, ripping, shredding, and un-weaving) is ultimately subsumed into a final product that is so light-on-its-feet that it almost seems to dissolve. Distinctions between support (walls, metal beams, wood panels) and gesture (chalk lines, pieces of fabric, staples) become unnecessary in these immersive environments in which nothing is what it once was, and yet everything is in full view. Whether they are unique works on paper made out of pulp and fabric, or single-wall panels, or whole rooms, Herzog's output is honest, transformative, colorful, tactile, fun, serious, and inviting.
Herzog delights in the de-materializing of form, only to embed those broken-down forms into larger contexts like museums and institutions to see what meaningfully joyous havoc they will wreak. At the Humanities Gallery at Long Island University, in a work titled "The Return of the Repressed," she layered the floors with lush Persian carpets that had been cut out and reassembled (this for a show inspired by Sigmund Freud's office in Vienna, where Persian carpets were much in use during analysis) only to reconfigure them yet again at other venues. (As the title suggests, Herzog, like Freud, finds the Unconscious a compelling cultural signifier.) At the Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Cornell University, Ithaca, Herzog was invited by the curators to essentially de-stabilize their permanent collection and she responded with an exhibition called "Civilization and its DisContents" in which (among other things) the museum's own collection of carpets and fine art commingled with hers. She dangled carpets, new and old, from the balcony above the public's heads, and reduced her own Afghan carpets to bare, spine-like skeletons of staples on the wall shot through with flimsy strands of yarn. And recently, at the Tegnerforbundet Gallery, in Oslo, Norway, the artist reconfigured a single child's woolen winter jacket into a reductive, Minimalist composition of vertical lines surrounding the gallery desk. Less is decidedly more for Herzog, who often prefers to let what is Not there speak for itself. "If my work projects a sense of strength, it's through fragility and tangential qualities -- not the myth of greatness," says the artist. "Speed, labor, progress, obsolescence, loss, kitsch, camp, nostalgia, sentimentality, taste…there are too many cliches out there for what I and other women artists do. At the end of the day, my work is process-based, intuitive. It evolves through the process of being made and my subsequent response to that. And I just try to get out of the way."
Elana Herzog lives and works in New York City.