Logan Lecture Review: Lawrence Argent

Aly Nack

ARTH 3539-001

Visiting Artist Lecture: Lawrence Argent

Lawrence Argent was born in England and trained in sculpture at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He received his MFA from the Rhinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute of Technology. Argent is best known for his public art and the immense amount of research behind each piece. He states, “In my research, I am interested in an arena of visual discourse that resides elementally in the perception and recognition of form. Whilst this statement is overwhelmingly obtuse, there lies an avenue of exploration that I find extremely fascinating. Quite simply, it unfolds into how one interacts with the visual world and the process by which we as participants exchange and relate with this data. My work emerges as a consequence of this insight, focusing my interests in the relationship of assumptions, passages of thought and preconceived sensory filters” (http://www.lawrenceargent.com/research/).

After attending the Logan Lecture at the Denver Art Museum featuring Lawrence Argent, I found that there was much more behind the artist that created the big blue bear, or “I See What You Mean”, in front of the convention center in Denver. He was actually very funny and made his work seem more interesting then I had originally thought. He began the lecture by showing some of his early work that actually existed in gallery spaces. With each piece he showed he discussed a different inspiration and conceptual idea that he focuses on. For example, he showed one piece that consisted of two tubs, one containing oil and the other ivory soap. Hanging over the tub of oil was old boxing gloves, and on top of the ivory soap was a cowboy hat actually carved from the soap. He said for this piece specifically he focused on the contrast between the elements and how the audience would see them and respond. He also showed “Waiting”, this piece consists of many different elements, but the main element is a chair. This chair has a video of the many people that have sat in the chair projected onto it. I actually really enjoyed this piece because he was able to get the audience to laugh, and because you begin to question each object within your life, and it makes you wonder about the history and life of each object you encounter. As I stated before Lawrence Argent is very interested in this idea of perception, but also material and materiality; as shown within this piece. He kept saying that he never wants to tell his audience how to think, he wants them to see his work as they see it. He is very interested in this about perception. Also, more so, that depending on where we are within our lives changes our perceptions of how we look and think about certain things. He also discussed how he is interested in the history of objects and the history behind the places he builds in.

After Argent had discussed his earlier work he then showed his first larger public art piece, at the University of Denver. This piece is known as “Whispers”. After he got the job to build some sort of sculpture on a college campus, he began to think about creating art in an educational place, obviously because his main interest within his work is perception he began to think about changing the perception of learning. To do this he placed benches, in the shape of lips, that give off sound that slowly gets louder and louder. He said that the longer you stay seated, the more you are able to hear voices. These voices are coming from recorded lectures throughout the campus. These lectures are from all different majors, and other academic resources. Along with these benches are tall pillars with lips on top of them, each set of lips was cast from students at the University of Denver. The point of this piece is to allow students to acquire information in a different way that is not during a class period.

The last piece that he discussed in the lecture, was one at the Sacramento Airport known as “Leap”. This piece consists of a red rabbit jumping, or leaping, into a suitcase. Argent began by discussing what is the element that is our baggage. When you travel all the stuff that you bring with you, is you, and without it you become incomplete. He then stated because of this idea he started with a suitcase, but he needed something to show this relationship between people and there luggage. So he decided to use a rabbit in order to show it. He chose the rabbit because it has such a large history behind it –due to fables, movies, and much more–that makes it very relatable to any audience. Argent then began to describe the process of building this piece. He said that the suitcase is about the size of a queen bed and contains and swirling opening for the rabbit to leap into. He built this by creating many molds and castings. He had to come up with a way to make a bland piece more interesting. To do so they added the swirling hole and embellishments on the suitcase. Also when they built the suitcase it was way too heavy, so they had to hollow out the inside, and now it is full of pennies and other change. As for the rabbit, it is made from aluminum. It has two layers, the inside it made from the aluminum, while the outside is just a bunch of triangular panels. With a lot of help it still took about three months for him and his team to build the rabbit within the airport. I thought it was very interesting how the rabbit actually had two layers, mostly because it looks almost transparent, but it is actually a solid black rabbit  covered in red panels. Also I really enjoyed how he said that it is meant to capture the imagination and take you into the story; this slightly reminded me to Alice in Wonderland, whether it is just because of the rabbit, I do not know.

Overall I really enjoyed this lecture. His work was very impressive and I really enjoyed how much it seemed to progress form when he first started making art, but that his main themes have yet to change. I definitely feel like I learned a lot about him and his work, and because of this I have more of an appreciation for his work, and public art in general, than I did before.



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