Object of the Week

‘Laid (Time-) Table with Cycads’, 2015

Beth Lipman

By Adrian Madlener / 6th January 2021
Beth Lipman, 'Laid (Time-) Table with Cycads', 2015 " COURTESY: Museum of Arts and Design"

Beth Lipman, ‘Laid (Time-) Table with Cycads’, 2015
COURTESY: Museum of Arts and Design

CHALICES, CROCKERY, CANDELABRAS, urns, books, instruments, crumpled tablecloths, and other human-made objects appear to be spilling over a long white dining table, as though frozen in time by a winter witch.  Cast in clear luminescent glass, this raucous collection of recognisable shapes melds together to form a monochromatic tableau, reminiscent of a still-life by the virtuoso 17th century Dutch baroque painter Abraham van Beyeren, though drained of colour. Rather than a celebration of luxury and plenty, this display casts a cold eye on the excesses of our Anthropocene era. What at first looks like the spilled residue of this ominous glut, spread out beneath the table, is revealed to be a phantasmagoric, prehistoric landscape. Extinct plant forms from the Devonian and Triassic period appear amongst more identifiable ferns, mosses, and gingkos that have survived multiple mass extinctions. At strategic points in the display, cycads pierce through the table’s surface, asserting the continuity of life, and connecting our heedless, shallow, present-day with regenerative deep time.

For renowned glass artist Beth Lipman, the monumental ‘Laid (Time-) Table with Cycads’ piece – extending an impressive five metres – evokes the tumultuous relationship between humanity and nature. The Philadelphia-born, Wisconsin-based artist often employs her glass craft prowess to create sculptural works that address mortality, materiality, and the experience of living in time. By reinvigorating the still life tradition, she creates works that hone in on the associations we have with everyday objects. However manipulated, skewed, and amalgamated they might be, these easily recognisable archetypal objects enter into dialogue with one another and allow the artist to pose serious questions about wealth, class, identity, consumption, western capitalism, and environmental degradation.

Lipman’s works can be found in important public and private collections from the Smithsonian American Art Museum to the Corning Museum of Glass, and she is the recipient of many accolades. ‘Laid (Time-) Table with Cycads’ is the centrepiece of a mid-career retrospective currently on view at New York’s Museum of Art and Design (MAD) – Beth Lipman: Collective Elegy. The exhibition looks back over the last 20 years of her prolific output. As the first comprehensive, scholarly review of Lipman’s career, the show incorporates many of the artist’s iconic glassworks but also explores her forays into glass, metal, clay, video, and photography. An 88-page anthology and a presentation of new works at the Nohra Haime Gallery accompany the museum exhibition.

The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) presents ‘Beth Lipman: Collective Elegy’, from 25th September 2020 to 15th August 2021.

Beth Lipman an American artist whose sculptural practice explores aspects of material culture and deep time through still lives, site-specific installations, and photographs.

Article by Adrian Madlener
Article by Adrian Madlener
Adrian Madlener is a Brussels-born, New York-based writer covering a wide range of design-related topics. View all articles by Adrian Madlener