Lawrence Argent Review (Chanel Host)

Chanel Host

ARTH 3539 Van Lil

Artist Lecture: Lawrence Argent


Lawrence Argent’s lecture was intriguing particularly in relation to our class discussion about public art. Argent’s perspective as an artist of public works was complimentary to Erika Doss’ lecture on public art and memorials. It was eye opening to discover the first hand risks an artist that creates public works must face. Argents descriptions of his works were full of lively personal details and sly jokes, which made him extremely captivating. Argent joked that as an artist he is more than the big blue bear tattooed on his chest, referring to one of his most well known piece “I see what you mean” at the Colorado convention center. Though he was musing his comment still implied one of his struggles to shape an identity beyond that associated with a single piece.  It is difficult for an artist such as Argent to be recognized as anything more than the guy who made the big bear, when in fact he is a dynamic artist with a variety of works. Another challenge Argent discussed is having your work be both accessible and venerable to the public. He explained that his piece “Confluence” which involves fountains of jumping water was so enticing to children that the city covered his glossy black finish with grip strips so no one would get hurt.  Argent mentioned this with little anger attesting to the ways he has to relinquish some aspects of his intended designs when the public interacts with them. His suitcase in Sacramento has become a pool for pennies, and someone damaged the blue bear with graffiti only a few weeks after its unveiling. Other public interaction keeps his artwork alive and central, such as comic strips involving the bear in the newspaper. He also mentioned that someone had placed a ball and chain around the bear’s ankles, an idea he thoroughly enjoyed because it did no damage to the sculpture.

Argent discussed the importance of semiotics, the way we perceive things, within his work. As an example he showed a piece in which he displayed Ivory soap and motor oil side by side in contrast. Above the vats of soap and oil Argent hung old boxing gloves, which led him to explain his interest in the history of objects. “I collect things” stated Argent explaining the crowded nature of his basement where he stores all the objects he and his wife collect. In one piece, which demonstrates Argents intrigue by the history of objects, he examined the life of a chair. Argent placed an old chair in a room and projected the rear ends of all the people that sat in the chair onto its seat so that the viewer watches a sort of history of the chairs occupants. Though the work is comic in its projections of people backsides, some of which are sexual, it also has real connotations of the historical events that are tied up in objects. His interest in historical significations is also important when he considers a sight for a public work. At each site he described how it is imperative for him to find out the significant historical component to guide the work he will produce. Where the more recent history demonstrates by the butts in the chair are one aspect of this, Argent went goes further back in time to find inspiration from the rivers and geologic elements which formed Vail Colorado. I was amazed by the amount of work Argent invested in learning about the history of a place and the feelings that still circulate within an area because of its history, when creating a site-specific piece.

One of the most insightful elements of Argents lecture was the attention he gave to explaining how he actually makes many of his larger works. Often times an artist will describe their work and intentions but they forget to explain how a piece actually comes to be. How does Argent construct a 40 foot blue bear to stand gazing into the convention center? Argent’s lecture included several detail examples, with photographs, of the studios and technology he must collaborate with to form his works. He also acknowledged that he is an artist that must work with a large amount of people before completing a work. Not only with city planners, but also with manufactures, technical artisans, tractor drivers, installers, and a host of people who help him get large works made, transported, and installed. His work entitled “your move” at the University of Houston at first was unimpressive to me, until Argent began to explain the extremely complex process of turning his computer generated gourd images into larger than life finished sculptures. As public artist, Argent is more concerned with conceptual symbolism and public response than he is with personally physically generating artworks. The extent of his ideas along with the size and scope of his projects exceeds his personal capacity to actually craft his works alone. This speaks to the nature of public art as created by a group, though the original idea is that of an individual artist. Throughout his lecture Argent kept stressing that public works take courage, not only of the artist but also of the entire city. His rabbit piece, “Leap,” in the Sacramento airport exemplified the intensive and expensive process that goes into erecting such a large public piece. Argent described both his conceptual efforts as well as the effort that went into actually forming a giant leaping rabbit which spans the three levels of the airport. His lecture was lively and informative and I could appreciate that he gave so much time to explaining the way his works are collaborative.

One Response

  1. I really enjoyed your analysis of this discussion, it was really insightful! I liked your discussion of semiotics, a portion of the lecture I also found very intriguing. I also really enjoyed the way you did not discuss the works in chronological order, instead using other criteria to compare them. Your analysis was excellent, good work!

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