Artist Lecture Review: Lawrence Argent

Sonya Rivera

ARTH 3539

Artist Lecture Review

On April 18, I traveled to the Denver Art Museum and attended the Logan Lecture Series featuring Lawrence Argent, which I found to be incredibly enjoyable. After a short introduction, the artist began speaking about his main interests when creating an art piece, which includes materiality. In particular, he focuses on how materials provoke emotions in us, and how different materials act as symbols. The examples he provided were motor oils, which are seen as dirty as well as industrial, and soap, which is seen as being clean and sanitary. He combined these two materials in an early work, titled Reflectivity, and carved a cowboy hat out of oil on a bed of soap flecks. With this piece, Argent wanted to experiment with the different senses and know how they enter our consciousness. This work began his main career interest of evaluating how we feel and respond to materials.

The next piece presented were Argent’s street sweeper brushes, which consist of large red brushes which he had to sculpt and clean in order to get a particular look out of an old object. With this project, he became interested in the histories of objects, in particular what they previously were and what they functioned as. He then realized these objects became more powerful when they were placed in a different context and looked at with a different perspective, not simply overlooked as being a functional object. His street sweeper brushes in particular became sensuous and interesting whereas they were dull and lacked much meaning before the transformation.

Another interesting project dealing with histories of objects consisted of an old chair and ladder. He particularly studied what these objects mean to individual people. Argent also said he was interested in the different relationships created as well as how their histories spoke to each other. As part of his experimentation, the artist wanted to hear the chair’s story. He showed a video piece which showed the ghosted images of what the chair “saw” which is of course the rear ends of different people.

Since Argent is a professor at CU Denver, he was interested in what education is. In particular, he wanted to know what ignites the boredom which he regularly saw from students into something else. In response to his questioning, he created four large benches which slowly emanate sound. These sounds are sets of information that we do not normally hear, which in turn catch the person sitting on the benches off guard. This is an example of how we receive information, therefore the benches are shaped as lips. The benches were modeled after some of his students and laser scanned, which has become a new method of making.

Argent then spoke of his work at the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art, which consists of black polished granite pieces that represent the energy coming from below ground. He said that it is important to know the history of the place one is making art for, and in this case the agriculture involved in the city’s history was particularly important therefore reflected in his work. This method was also used in a developmental complex of apartments in Pennsylvania which used to have multiple uses. Argent decided to represent pillows, constructing them out of hand carved marble. The pillows are stacked and begin to fall, which represents the embracement of the point of rest.

The artist is perhaps most well known for his Blue Bear at the Denver Arts Complex, therefore discussed how he came up with the piece. Originally, he wanted to derail the mindset of what Colorado is. He wanted something impactive enough to be interactive with the building, but also be symbiotic. Argent revealed that his original plan had nothing to do with a bear, however it was sort of a last minute decision. The Blue Bear has become very successful and served its purpose, however, and provides a sense of familiarity.

In Vail, Argent worked with Davis Architects to design a plaza near the Solaris development. One of the pieces created is a bubbly-looking statue that changes color and is extremely beautiful. He discussed the difficulties in figuring out how to build and engineer his idea, and showed pictures of the process in making these odd forms.

In another project for an educational institution, the artist designed three different stone statues which represent the path of education. The first stone has a stepping sort of design, which represents the initial climbing for success. The second stone has a weave design, which represents knowledge. The third stone consists of patches, which represents assemblage. What is so incredible about this project is that a machine was not able to do the job, therefore everything was hand crafted therefore not perfect. Argent believes that this is a good thing, since it shows the beauty of craftsmanship and possibilities.

The last work discussed was the piece designed for the Sacramento airport. He described his process in deciding what to create, and focused on the stuff that makes one feel complete in an airport in particular. Argent realized this to be one’s suitcase. He also wanted to think of metaphors of what we do with our baggage, including the physical and non-physical. Therefore, he included a suitcase with a sort of whirlpool which a huge red rabbit is jumping into. Argent justified including a rabbit by stating that the animal represents connections to every person, whether young or old, especially in relation to fables and stories. He described the fabrication involved, which was nothing less than intriguing and exciting. The multi-story rabbit also guides visitors to their baggage, therefore has a function as well as aesthetic quality.


One Response

  1. I attended this lecture as well and I thought you seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. I liked how you wrote the paper project by project the way Argent presented them and a little bit about every piece rather than choosing some. It was insightful and I enjoyed your opinions; you really conveyed the artist’s thoughts well as well.

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