Shannon Ebner is a Los Angeles–based artist known for using handmade letters, symbols, signs, and other means of representation to call attention to the limits and loopholes of language. Photographs and sculptures from her new project, “The Electric Comma,” are featured in the 54th Venice Biennale and in a solo show at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Two new public sculptures, both titled and, per se and, accompany these shows and are installed, respectively, on the Grand Canal in Venice and in Culver City. Audiences in L.A. can see the eight-foot-tall solar-powered work on the northeast corner of Centinela Avenue and Washington Boulevard until October 14. Ebner’s pictures of “anti-places” and “anti-landscapes” (for instance, dust from emergency road flares that appears to spell out a word) are on view at the Hammer until October 9.
In the essay she wrote to accompany your exhibition at the Hammer, curator Anne Ellegood describes your work as “manifestly American.” How does American identity relate to your recent pictures, and how does landscape figure in?
Robert Smithson once asked if Passaic, New Jersey had replaced Rome as the eternal city, with buildings that rise into ruin rather than fall. It makes me realize that my interest in landscape—for instance, in the work of an artist like Joe Deal, who made pictures from an elevated vantage point, with his camera high up on a bluff or hillside looking down at tract-housing neighborhoods—has to do with this idea of falling while rising. I think that there is a connection between Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Deal’s vantage point. It seems to say that there could be some redemption, some possibility that the kids of those tract-housing communities could be saved from being an American, from rising to fall or, I guess I should say, rising to fail.