Once a resident of Chicago, Stephen Lapthisophon has since moved to Texas where he continues to write and make work while teaching at the University of Texas at Arlington. His ties to Chicago remain strong–what is most recently evidenced by his exhibit, The Construction of a National Identity at the Hyde Park Art Center. Running concurrently in Dallas, Stephen exhibited a second body of work, Spelling Lesson, at Conduit Gallery. In both exhibits he investigates the source and strategies of identity, integrating text and found materials. Recently I had a chance to ask him some questions about his work–Devin, Stephen and I have been working together over the last several months compiling a series of Stephen’s essays for The Green Lantern Press. In the midst of that process, I did not steal an opportunity to ask him about his visual work–what continues to play such a prominent role in his life. The more I learned about his practice, scouring through older publications, (Whitewalls published Hotel Terminus in 1999, as well as an artist catalogue, Writing Art Cinema 1977-2007 ) the more I began to wonder how he negotiates his own identity as an artist, particularly when his work seems so porous. It’s a strange idea, I’ll admit, to think of an art practice as being porous. What I mean is that Stephen seems to pass through accumulations of objects and ideas, undeterred by the cultural status of those materials (whether based in popular culture, day-to-day banalities or philosophy). He collects certain elements, one-liners and imagery, in order to then recompile those remnants through his own lens. Throughout everything he maintains a steady, personable voice. His work is warm, messy, I’d even say generous in its accessibility and boasts a consistent character–which of course points back to identity.
Caroline Picard: At your Conduit Gallery show, “Spelling Lessons” you address the question of a “signature.” As I understand it, you employ a variety of mediums, as well as text, to undermine/explore the question of a concise artistic identity. Can you talk a little bit about that? And maybe what you think a signature represents? (I’m also interested in this because of your regular incorporation of text, which seems to become it’s own kind of signature…
Stephen Lapthisophon: Yes.
First of all, I have this difficult, hard to spell (and hard to pronounce) last name. So names have been on my mind for a while—the way that names are not really words but instead serve as markers of a sort. I am interested in the way we mark ourselves, mark our place and mark our moment. I am also interested in drawing. And for me writing is closer to the act of drawing than it is to Painting which carries with it a number of assumptions and heavy background. Drawing is mark making, notation, surface and hand.
Also, as we move away from the hand we move away from a different kind of object. Picture making, works of art are no longer “signed” in the same way as they were in the past. Yet artists persist in making works that carry a recognizable identity, via repeated form. I am aiming for an everydayness of experience—signing, marking, making a notation, drawing, scratching and spilling.
I am also interested in the signature’s ability to call into question our thinking about the idea of authenticity. Signatures should not be pre-meditated, forced or over thought. They should just “happen.” We expect signatures to be “natural” and part of our selfhood. Odd then, that we sign a work of art –potentially full of artificial marks? To mark its authenticity…
CP: Following up on that last question, do you think of “text” as a kind of medium in and of itself? One not necessarily relegated to the page of a book, for instance, but even a free standing element? I suppose another way to ask that question is what is your relationship to text? How does that compare with your relationship to an art object?
SL: I am not sure if text is another medium but it is the element that makes certain media unstable. Is a drawing with text the same as a sign? I mean like a hand painted sign for a yard sale? Is a drawing/ painting with words an agreement, a caption for something else…or a list? I think text in visual works of art chips away at the solid place where we see a work of art as self contained and whole and moves it to an in between place–an object without a home.
CP: You have a show, “The Construction of a National Identity” up at The Hyde Park Art Center right now. Here too, you seem to examine traditional ways of locating a self in space and time. On the one hand, it seems like you rely on those traditional mechanisms (i.e. national identity, which relates to place and, even more basic, I think, a kind of “naming” or identification of a particular aspect) and on the other deliberately undermine their integrity (in so far as you point to Paella, for instance, or the idea of hybridity in general). Can you talk a little bit about that tension?
SL: Definitions always fall apart. Either breaking away into tautology or crumbling under the weight iof their own defining terms. We are given many terms with which to define ourselves yet none of them match perfectly. We don’t really add up…Given the hallway space at HPAC it seemed to make sense to push the transitory, ambulatory nature of identity—and the walking nature of the way that we exchange messages with each other in public. The installation is a poem with recipes written on colored walls or recipes for poems drawn on walls or walls marking overheard pieces of recipes signed by a writer. The food materials used to make the piece (saffron, rice, salt, coffee, olive oil, sesame oil and tea all hold associations with place and are part of our everyday lives. We build our sense of self through the repetition of daily rituals of food and drink and mark the day with words and gesture.
CP: Here too I am interested in how you incorporate those elements into tactile mediums. How do you characterize your relationship to your work–in a physical sense? Like when you’re looking at what you make, in your studio, or in a gallery–even when you first approach materials with an intention to “fashion” them–what is your experience of yourself in those moments?
SL: I want my experience and the audience’s experience to be of the moment–in process and in flux. An experience of everything around and in the piece. I want the experience to be heightened by a sense of the transitory and fleeting and of the potential for change. Not that the pieces change but that they have changed. Materiality is important as it claims or sense of space and makes us aware of our body and all aspects of the sensory world. I use a lot of found objects and like to call into question what makes one object “art” while excluding another object from being art. I am drawn to material, older physical objects made by hand—objects that contain handmade marks.
CP: When do you find yourself most “the artist”?
SL: I guess I enjoy the making and the time and place when the surprise happens. I am an advocate of the irritation, of mystery and of ambiguity And I need to have a sense of discovery as I return to the work. I like being in the space.
This week over on Center Field | Art in the Middle with Bad at Sports I had a chance to interview Nicholas Lowe, curator of Roger Brown: California U.S.A at the Hyde Park Art Center. Check out the teaser below and read the entire article over on art21.
After passing away in 1997, painter, sculptor, and notorious collector, Roger Brown bequeathed his homes and collections to his alma mater, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). His Chicago home located at 1926 N. Halsted became what is now the Roger Brown Study Collection (RBSC). Known as an “artist’s museum,” the study collection houses Brown’s work and collection intact. His New Buffalo home, which was designed by his partner, architect George Veronda, has become an artists’ retreat for SAIC staff and faculty.
Unlike his other residences, Brown’s home in La Conchita, California, was sold in 1998 and the contents were archived and moved to the RBSC. With the help of the study collection’s curator Lisa Stone, assistant curator James Connolly, and SAIC alum Dana Boutin, Chicago-based artist and curator Nicholas Lowe has organized an exhibition based on the work that Brown made and the objects he collected while living in California. Roger Brown: California U.S.A, currently on view at the Hyde Park Art Center, explores Brown’s Virtual Still Lifepaintings and the intricate relations that formed while working in his home in California.
Meg Onli: How did this exhibition evolve and how did you decide to show Brown’s collection outside of his homes?
Nicholas Lowe: This exhibition grew from a discussion about what would be the best way to show [Brown's] Virtual Still Life object series. There are 27 of these [paintings] and they were all made [from] 1995 to 1996, while Brown was living in La Conchita, CA, in the house that he commissioned Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman to build. Brown died in November 1997, and the house was subsequently sold in 1998. The contents, including all Brown’s personal possessions, from inside and outside the house were documented, cataloged, and packed. These items were placed in deep storage at the museum, and in 2008, with the help of Lisa Stone and her staff we began to unpack and assess the material.
Read the rest of article on art21.
Artists are masters of constructing moments of subversion, spectacle and illusion. On Saturday, October 30, the Hyde Park Art Center is asking artists to create those moments. From 3pm until 10pm, they will have games, art-making workshops, and performances taking place in and around the Art Center – all with the prankster in mind.
Sound interesting? They are looking for artists who would like to be a part of the mischievousness by concocting artist-run workshops, performances, temporary installations, public programs for kids and/or adults, or any other creative ideas you can scheme up. They are open to input. If you’re interested, please send a proposal including:
- Your name and contact information
- Name and description of your event/workshop/prank/performance
- Any supplies you may need
Deadline for submissions is July 14. Please send your proposals to Crystal Pernell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sorry for the missed week, I was rocking out in the lovely and exhausting Yosemite, climbing waterfalls, almost falling to my death (I shit you not, and it was completely my fault), looking at Pileated Woodpeckers (the Woody Woodpecker ones), drinking lots of Tecate and burning lots and lots of firewood. But now I’m back. It’s getting into that summer session, where things get lean. But as always quantity does not indicate quality, and following that, I give you my weekend picks. Mmmm, tasty!
Hyde Park Art Center is located at 5020 S Cornell Ave. Crit Friday, from 6-8pm.
Your last opportunity to see this month long event created by artist Kimmy Noonen.
Art on Armitage is located at 4125 W. Armitage Ave. Closing reception Friday, from 6-9pm.
How long has it been since you visited Lloyd Dobler Gallery? It’s been a while for me, so I’m heading back to one of the first galleries I visited in Chicago, and still one of my favorites.Solo show of Sebastian Vallejo.
Lloyd Dobler Gallery is located at 1545 W Division St, 2nd Fl. Reception Friday, from 6-10pm.
Monument 2 Gallery is located at 2007 N. Point St. Reception Saturday, from 6-10pm.
I’d make a joke about the title if it weren’t already such a depressing fucking joke. Bound to be some good work though. Work by Deborah Stratman, Jim Zimpel, Jesse Avina, Daniel Baird, Jake Myers and the Pentagon Education Collective.
Pentagon is located at 961 W 19th St., 1F. Reception Saturday, from 7-11pm.
Thanks to everyone for coming out to the “Social Media Strategies in Chicago’s Art Community” panel hosted by Art Critic Alicia Eler and Chicago Gallery News’ Ginny Berg at Art Chicago today. I loved talking with Karla Loring, Museum of Contemporary Art; Crystal Pernell, Hyde Park Art Center; and Carrie Heinonen, Art Institute of Chicago about all things tech & strategy and hope that it was useful or atleast entertaining for those of you in attendance. Every group on that dais has my upmost respect for the work they do in the Arts day in and out and it is an honor to have Bad at Sports counted among them.
As promised in the talk there is a program that is quite useful in Twitter to let you know who starts following you and more importantly who drops your account. At the time I was trying to think of Chirpstats and couldn’t get the word out but the great Crystal Pernell was kind enough to remind me of Qwitter which does more then Chirpstats by working to tie the drop to a specific tweet. This can be extremely useful if at times a bit misleading but a great alternative to Chirpstats which is only a weekly update but less taxing on an email account.
The net is a wonderful place to meet, share, promote and wallow in all the things you love or cherish and social media for me is a great tool to help accomplish & magnify those desires. I still say though the most important thing is to service the end users like they are your boss, anything less is putting the cart before the horse. Feed them data, facts, images & yes even sugar and rumors some days but remember that twitter, facebook, digg, stumbleupon, and whatever is next are only a means to that end. It’s something that even we have to be vigilant to keep in perspective and doesn’t come easy for anyone especially when you have to answer to a comittee; I have deep sympathy there. I look forward to the next time we can get everyone together and have honest and open talks about how we go about trying to promote and grow this thing we love called Art.
Thanks again for coming out!