Lawrence Argent Logan Lecture

Andrew Odlin

Logan Lecture: Lawrence Argent

Lawrence Argent’s involved and large-scale public artworks inspire imaginative and critical consideration of the location in which they are placed. His success has been made possible through the use of very relevant subject matter to his locations and a lot of assistance from technically proficient engineers and organizing parties. At his DAM Logan lecture he discussed a selection of public works under the umbrella of a critical thought process that challenged previous research and was committed to sparking an informed dialogue about the subject. Grandiose scale and formal dynamism are the ingredients that gave his installations the power to demand a response from his audience.

He began his lecture with a project titled “Confluence” in Fort Collins, Colorado. This piece was a particularly interesting example of the conceptions that surround public artwork. Artists who work in public environments are not strangers to the problem of decorative or folk branding. It was smart of Argent to preface his discussion with his belief that, unlike many others he had conversed with on the subject, he finds landscape art to be a very legitimate artistic subject. It helps also to have done the historical and geographical research that lends the piece a deeper meaning and availability to its enjoyers. The piece was comprised of hand-polished granite slabs mimicking the rippling waves of the Poudre and South Platte rivers. Shooting streams of water so common to public parks and leisure areas were used in this piece to connect the slabs, going in and out of the helices of the carved ripples. The aesthetic beauty of the work paired well with the plaza in which it was set, and the friendly nature of the piece effectively begins an artistic dialogue with the diverse and numerous members of the public.

When Lawrence Argent spoke about “Confluence,” he was sure to mention its relation to the confluence of the South Platte and Poudre rivers which provided the possibility for agricultural and communal growth in the city of Fort Collins in the early twentieth century. The strong correlation between historical community reference and the communality of the plaza was clear enough. His collaboration with city planners and local workers reinforced this, and the scientific awareness of the piece all came together into what seemed to be a very safe piece of public art. There is nothing wrong with producing a conservative piece of art, and this was his aim in this project. However, my feathers were ruffled when considering his introductory statement, which emphasized his love of the struggle between idea and challenge. This is because, as is so common in contemporary art production, the majority of the work was completed by his collaborating parties. Extracting, transporting and hand-polishing the granite, funding the project, engineering the water components. My quam is directed solely at his delivery, as the project was agreed to by all involved and was a successful work. But to hear the lust in his voice for the challenge of the work seemed misplaced.

Contrasting the safeness of Confluence, “Cojones” appropriated huge, red street-sweepers and dangled them from the ceiling of a gallery space. Less historically and communally oriented than Confluence, but with much more vitality, Cojones represented to me a more instinctual project than many of his others. Whereas the power of Confluence lay in its association with the plaza and Fort Collins’ geographical history, this pair of cojones was a forceful association of urban mechanism and power derived from testosterone.

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