Lawrence Argent Visiting Artist Lecture at the Denver Art Museum

Visiting Denver Art Museum Lecture: Lawrence Argent

            Lawrence Argent talked at the Denver Art Museum on Wednesday, April 18, 2012. Born in England, Argent got his undergraduate degree at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, in sculpture, and received in MFA from the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. Argent is a well-known installation artist who has created works all over Colorado including the famous blue bear peering into the Denver Convention Center. Besides that piece, he has been commissioned to do works in California and Texas.

In the beginning of the lecture, Argent focused on some of his past work that included more sculpture and installation based worked. Argent talked about his fascination with symbols and the psychological implication that they have. Argent went into talking about our immediate reaction when we see oil or soap, and other symbols that the general public is so accustomed to. One piece that he mentioned that was inspired by symbols was the piece, Reflections (2000). This piece consisted on a wash stand with boxing gloves hanging over head. One side of the sink was filled with motor oil, and the other side was filled with soap shavings and a soap carved cowboy hat. Argent said that all of these material had a significant meaning to the general public. He also mentioned that this piece provoked all the senses including smell.

Another piece that he talked about for a little bit that went along these lines were, Cojones (1999). Made out of street sweeper brushes and steel, Argent hand-shaped these street sweepers to create these giant red figures. He made a comment that I couldn’t ignore. He mentioned something about the neighborhood that he was living in while he was making this piece. In a Hispanic accent he quote what his neighbor asked him about his project, “Hey man, are you opening up a car wash or something?” The general reaction from the crowd was a laugh, but unfortunately the two Hispanic students sitting behind me did not feel the same way. I thought I would address this because as an artist and someone who is in the public eye, should really be more conscientious of some of the jokes that he makes. It truly makes him look unprofessional and definitely makes him unaware of the people who might be attending his lectures.

After talking about another piece entitled Waiting (1998) an installation with a video projector facing the seat of a chair with images and video clippings of rear ends, Argent started to talk about his work as an installation artist. The pieces that he talked about were Whisper, Confluence, Pillow Talk, Leap, and I See What You Mean.

Out of all the public work pieces that he mentioned, the piece that stood out the most was Whisper (2002). Done on the University of Denver’s campus where he teaches, Argent created this giant limestone pillars with bronze casting of lips on them. When you sat on a designated couch, sounds from other classrooms and recorded areas would start to play. The humorous aspect of this piece is that the noise would not immediately start; it gradually went from silence to a full volume over the duration of a minute. He said it was funny to watch people become startle by the noise that they were hearing and not being able to figure out where they were coming from. Argent also went into detail about the benches that he made out of the casted lips and how they also were weight sensitive to trigger the sound. An interesting aspect of the casted lips was that they were all DU students’ mouth and each casted mouth was not a replica, but an individual piece of work. It makes the piece a little more interesting and definitely unique in it’s own way.

Another piece that was interesting was Pillow Talk (2001). This apartment complex where Pillow Talk is located used to be St. Luke’s hospital and before that a place where horses use to spend their last days before they were killed. Argent went into detail about the pillows that were at St. Luke’s hospital and how they used to have miscellaneous stains on them from the multiple patients that lived and died their. He said that the symbolic meaning of the pillow was extremely important and that is where he would draw is inspiration from. Argent, and the help of his team, got marble from Colorado Yule and shipped it to New Jersey. There, they created these hand carved pillow sculptures, and shipped them back to Denver, CO. The pillows are stacked one, on top of the other and are all slightly individualized. Argent said that the landlord. Enjoyed the pillow works so much that he commissioned him to do a couple of individual ones to place in the gardens of the apartment complex. This sculpture is open to the public at its permanent location on 1985 Pennsylvania St. It was interesting how in depth and detailed his knowledge was on the Apartment’s history. Argent used his knowledge on the building to create a body of work that applied to it’s past.

Argent’s lecture was insightful and was informational. It was interesting to hear about where these ideas dawned from and how he applied an acceptable piece to fit with it’s meaning. His general lecture was entertaining and was extremely detailed in how he came about constructing his ideas into physical creations. Now knowing that Argent is more then just the Big Blue Bear lingering outside of the Denver Convention Center, I can admire numerous works around Colorado that he has created.

2 Responses

  1. I wanted to read this because I also attended the Lawrence Argent lecture, which I really enjoyed and it seems you did too. I notice that you have some grammar errors throughout, perhaps you can proofread it and repost? You had nice and thorough discussion of the few works you singled out, but you could have included more of his instillation works since that’s what he’s known for.

  2. I disagree that Argent’s joke was inappropriate. It sounds like he was reciting an actual story that occurred. Is it racist to repeat what someone else says just because someone from another race said it initially? The added accent was also just to heighten the truth of the story and to entertain the crowd. After all, isn’t that what art is for in the first place? to entertain? I just had to comment on that because there is a fine line between disrespect and wit, and that was not disrespectful, that’s just who he is.

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