A Brooklyn-based artist and a native of Boston, MA, Ted Lawson studied sculpture at the Philadelphia University of the Arts. His works combine the newest digital technology with the skills of a traditional sculptor, embodying his artistic vision centered on the connection between eroticism, geometry, and death. After ENTROPY in 2012, CRUDE – on display in May-June 2013 – is Lawson’s second solo show with Emmanuel Fremin Gallery.
Ted Lawson’s body of work develops a multi-layered system of sculptural meanings that treats all of his subjects and objects as visual language, by connecting them in an evocative way. In an interview, Lawson declared that he is concerned with portraiture in sculpture “as a range of physical possibilities, rather than as a frozen moment in time.” The elastic notion of time and the ways in which it affects the viewer, physically and emotionally, resides at the core of this artist’s creative imagination.
His artwork is focused on the contemporary idea of deconstructing reality and then reconstructing it in a different way, enriched by new values. Nonetheless, for the artist, deconstruction is associated with the death of metaphor or of literary interpretation, while reconstruction is understood as the creation of a three-dimensional geometrical poetry, which gives the illusion of reality. “What we see are just images sent from our eyes to our brain, material things that we conceptualize in our minds,” the artist seems to whisper to us. Lawson is acutely aware that the perception of his works is an interactive process, since each viewer sees something different and creates new meanings, according to his/her background, personal experience, and education. The viewer’s perception can coincide with or can be completely the opposite of the artist’s ideas. However, the artist offers a visual and mental puzzle: he gives “hints” and invites the beholder to discover what is hidden, to see the “unseen”, and to make new connections. The viewers are led in but must come to understand the meaning of the narrative for themselves.
CRUDE will feature the latest creations of the artist, inaugurating a black series of works, whose size and setting place them at the border between sculpture and installation. The title alludes to basic elements and primary materials, such as black crude oil before it is refined.
One of the pieces, all in black, shows a life-size female figure while levitating, defying gravity and simultaneously dissolving. The black color can operate as a symbol of death or simply as a base material; the crude energy which we all derive from. The female body is accompanied by small star-shaped solids – representing the realm of the underlying, yet unseen structures of the universe, creating a surreal atmosphere. Other found objects: a crushed acetone can, a piece of broken pipe, and human bones are integrated in the work, signifying the process of discarding; it is about “what we discard – in our mind, in our life, including ourselves”, confesses the artist. The work can be understood as a contemporary “memento mori”.
Creating supporting trails and pools of solidified liquid as bases, the artist’s dripping method makes all the elements seem suspended. An amazing capacity of rendering different organic and inorganic textures emphasizes the fantastic vision of the artist. Through the simple abstraction of objects forming from the black liquid, the connection is made: Realism, fantasy, mythology, science are all imagined states of being that all exist from the same source.
The Death of Narrative engages with the same ambiguity between a sleeping and a dead woman figure. Here the woman who is lying down is reminiscent of the famous Ophelia by the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais. The figure is surrounded by a plethora of small elements: the same star-shaped geometric solids, miniature mythological-like female characters acting as a foil to the main protagonist, bizarre organic volumes or bunches of mushrooms, as well as abandoned objects – empty bottles of alcohol, a damaged pipe fragment, and a broken pair of headphones. The scale difference of the female characters corresponds to the artist’s idea about the process of dissolution. Becoming smaller and smaller, the bodies are reduced to primary elements: the star-shaped geometric solids function as fundamental cells / crystals, revealing the secret geometry of a real or imaginary universe. The viewer is tempted / invited to go around the sculpture, to pick one or more small elements, and to have a closer look, thus partaking in the creative process. Each of these tiny elements could be a piece of art in and of itself. The pink-bluish hues of the female body highly contrast with the black color of the ground.
Playing with eroticism, voyeurism, ambiguity, and abstraction, Lawson’s three-dimensional pieces surprise the viewer with their supernatural logic and, at the same time, draw the viewer in, exposing the anxieties and the desires associated with the female body and ultimately opening up the kind of sincere dialogue with oneself that only art can bring about.