Lecture Review 2- Lawrence Argent

Mary Robbins

Artist Lecture Review

Lawrence Argent

After visiting the Denver Art Museum to attend Lawrence Argent’s artist lecture, I can better understand his work and philosophy, and am able relate to him in a much more personal way. He was enthusiastic yet down-to-earth throughout his lecture, while discussing his work and ideas in an informative and inspirational way. Argent is most well-known (especially by Coloradans) for his monumental sculpture of the big blue bear, titled “I see what you mean,” outside of the Denver Convention Center. This work has become a sort of icon for residents of Denver and visitors alike. In his lecture, Argent discussed the responsibilities, struggles, and processes that go into creating public works of art with such presence and meaning.

Argent, as a creator of public art, has a great responsibility in adding to the culture and dynamic of certain places through site-specific works, which become central to daily life in their respective locations and, in a sense, reflect the entire community. Argent realizes this responsibility, admitting that creating such works takes courage. Argent spends a great deal of time and energy researching the histories, communities, interests, and values that make up specific places before coming up with plans for his large-scale public works. He seeks to find important historical aspects of the places he works, so that he can carry a meaningful theme from the area into the work. He understands and appreciates the fact that his works will be visible and public, and strives to give his art meaning that will be the basis of its relationship with the viewers. As public, large-scale works, Argent understands that his art will be the subject of interaction with the population, forming a strong relationship with the community and place, and must have a sort of timeless endurance that will be appreciated by the inhabitants and visitors of the community.

This importance of meaning and relationship can be seen in his work “Confluence” in Fort Collins. While the work may not seem to have much of a connection with its placement upon first glance, Argent stated that he researched the landscape and agriculture of Fort Collins in order to find materials that had meaning. In choosing to make fountains within the dark granite slabs forming the structures, Argent referenced the importance of the rivers in Fort Collins. He integrated the natural elements of the surroundings (which is always important in Colorado) into the work, creating a subtle, but important connection with the history, landscape, and values of the area. As the work is in a central plaza, it becomes a meeting area for the public and creates a sense of community, especially because children enjoy playing in the fountains and their families enjoy congregating around the work.

Expanding on the importance of history, Argent discussed his interest in the history behind objects. He is not only a creator of large-scale public works, but also has worked with installation. Argent noted a few of his installation-type projects, and talked about the meanings of materiality (using motor oil and soap in one piece) and the history of objects, like a chair (and its sitters) or street sweeping brushes. For Argent, the history of an object brings up important meanings that might only be noticeable in new contexts.

As a professor at DU, Argent stated his interest in education. To him, there is great importance in education consisting of more than just learning from a textbook in the classroom. He wanted to extend stimulus, creativity, and inspiration further, and created a series of benches and columns on the campus of DU that incorporate interactive sound elements and sensors, which trigger noises from the benches when they are sat on. When discussing this piece, titled “Whispers,” Argent brought up the importance of collaboration, which is vital to almost all of his works. “Whispers” was an especially collaborative piece in that students’ lips were used as models for the shapes of the benches. The personal quality in the representation of real students’ lips references the importance of connection with the community in his work, and reflects the diversity of DU’s student-body, while the use of limestone for the structures fits in with the natural colors throughout the campus.

Furthering the theme of collaboration, Argent discussed more large-scale public works and noted the immense amount of effort it takes to plan, create, transport, and install such pieces. It is clear that Argent’s themes include community (both throughout the process of creating his works, and within the population of the area after completion), history, symbolism, and meaning. He is a complex artist, yet seems approachable and light-hearted, using humor to his advantage and creating works that both rely on and support the integration of the community.

 

 

3 Responses

  1. I enjoy the level of detail you have put into your review. I was also there for this Lecture, and got the same feel about his intentions as an artist. Although, his themes of collaboration did make me wonder, how much of Lawrence’s work is really his? Considering for example, the bronze piece he made for Vail, Colorado. This piece was made entirely in a different state, and he did not participate in this.

  2. I got the chance to look at his website and look at the instillation projects that he has done. Very interesting and intriguing, his public art projects are probably my favorite.

  3. I think the most interesting aspect of Argents creations is the fact that he puts so much research into location, and geographical reflection of his piece relative to the setting. In some cases I have noticed installation works with seemingly complete disregard for location vs. content. I think that in the case of artwork displayed in a public sphere, it only makes sense to fully immerse the piece into the location it is designed for. Unless of course, the intent was to highlight the stark differences between geography and artistic expression.

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