In 22 mixed-media works on paper on view at Conduit Gallery in Dallas, Stephen Lapthisophon invites viewers to consider their everyday lives through his use of common materials in the execution of these abstract and personal works of art.
This exhibition marks a departure for Lapthisophon, in that it operates outside of installation art or the performative practices he’s known for. Lapthisophon contends that these process-driven drawings, made with such unconventional media as coffee grounds, bacon fat, smoke, latex, tea, vinegar, and rosemary, are “polemical” in how they go against the grain of much contemporary art.
Lapthisophon says today’s popular artists strategically plan and design pieces according to preconceived ideas and an assembly-line execution that mirrors the processes of commodity capitalism. By contrast, he comes to each piece without preconceptions as to what the final image will look like, allowing his mood and the materials to guide the process.
Lapthisophon achieves this not by looking at the present, but by acknowledging artists in the modernist canon who inspired him through their grappling with similar concerns about challenging dominant attitudes about lived experience in modernity. Examples include Giuseppe Penone, Cy Twombly, Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana and Jannis Kounellis.
In Burri 1945, 2013, 45×59” Lapthisophon uses spray paint, ink and coffee grounds to execute an expressive image with line and text over a white surface. Rendered in black “1945” and “Burri” are linked with a strong red that drips paint as it meanders over the words forming a “2” shape.
Beyond the clear reference to the Italian artist Alberto Burri, who also worked with an array of materials and often damaged and burned the surface of his pieces, we can only speculate as to the meaning of the other elements. Burri was a prisoner of war in Texas during 1945 where he began to paint on burlap bags. Could this fact be a starting point in constructing a reading of the piece?
The piece offers no clear answers. For Lapthisophon, this is exactly the point.