Lecture Review 2_Brittney Johnson

Artist review 2

Brittney Johnson

ARTH 3539

Artist Lecture #2

Lawrence Argent

The introduction to Lawrence Argent’s talk was given by Colleen Fanning, who hired him for his famous Blue Bear sculpture.  She introduced the audience to the theme of public art, which for her, and it seems for Lawrence Argent as well, is art for people who do not go to museums or galleries.  Fanning also introduced public art as reflecting the values and culture it is involved in; it also reflects the artist’s own values.  When discussing Lawrence Argent, she discussed his emotion, feeling, and imagination as well as his mastery of technique and materials.  She discussed an interesting problem with critics and other serious art-goers not taking public art or the artists who create them seriously, which is unfortunate since it manages to reach so many people. 

For Lawrence Argent the focus of his art is quadripartite: materials and materiality, perception, process, and semiotics.  This was very exciting for me since semiotics is one of my favorite ways of understanding both modern and classical art.  He discussed twelve works, ranging from some of his earlier instillation pieces to his larger and more recognizable public art instillations.

To begin he discussed an Ivory soap and used oil piece.  The purpose of beginning with this particular piece was to, I feel, demonstrate that for Argent, art is more than visual, it is also about the smells and the (imagined) textures.  He really wants his audience to use all their senses when experiencing his art.  He also has a great sense of humor about his art as his second piece “Cojones” indicates.  Here he refashioned thick and heavy street-sweeping brushes into something pseudo-topiary and much more sensual than its original meaning.  The third instillation work he discussed was “Waiting”, which was composed of a chair with a bucket and ladder.  All of these normal household goods have a standard meaning and since they were previously used, they have history.

The first public instillation work Argent discussed was at the University of Denver with the theme of education.  The work was composed of four benches shaped like lips combined with lips on pillars.  The benches project lectures to those sitting on them, in attempt to educate people in an unexpected context.  His works are always site-specific, so he moves from an educational themed work at DU to a water-themed public piece in Ft. Collins.  While the water feature may seem random, it is related to the rivers of Ft. Collins, which historically played a role in forming the city into what it is today.  In an extremely different context is “Pillow Talk” which is an amazing marble sculpture within the context of a former nursing home and hospital and current apartment complex, which all have the same idea of resting.

Lawrence Argent did discuss “I See What You Mean” (the big Blue Bear at the Convention Center).  He wanted to play with kitschy ideas of Colorado and really situate people in the state.  A symbiotic relationship is integrated into this work; it is more than just decorative.  The bear is a metaphor for threshold of the natural and fauna encroaching on an urban environment, an everyday dilemma in Colorado.  Argent wants engagement with the viewer so it is necessary that the viewer is not turned off; or feels like they cannot interact because they do not understand.  I will not go into detail about the remainder of the public works but they are all site-specific and encourage engagement in one form or another.

The last portion of his discussion was focused on the idea of collaboration.  Using specific examples of his more recent public instillations, Argent takes us through all the steps that go into designing and creating one of his (usually massive) works.  While he usually creates the idea of the work on his own, he cannot make it happen without extreme risk taking and dedication.  He also likes to use people instead of machinery as much as possible so that his work maintains a sense of humanity.  This idea of being involved with the human aspect is also why he did not mind when the Ladies Fancywork Society yarn-bombed his Blue Bear.  This was a fantastic artist lecture where I learned a lot about Lawrence Argent’s creative process.


This paper is completely based on the Logan Lecture of artist Lawrence Argent at Denver Art Museum on April 18, 2012.  No outside sources were used.

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