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Sterling Lawrence
Tony Wight Gallery
845 West Washington Blvd, Chicago, IL 60607
October 28, 2011 - December 23, 2011

Back to Form
by Joel Kuennen

When I came across the promotional images for this exhibition by young artist Sterling Lawrence, I must confess I wasn’t too enthused. Large format gradients, abstracted sculptural gestures, clean lines that lead to conceptual destinations within the hyperbaric chamber of the gallery. It was gallery art. Art made for a gallery. I just wasn’t feeling it… until I was in the gallery itself.

Installation view of Sterling Lawrence's "Lie and Wait" at Tony Wight Gallery, 2011. Image courtesy of Tony Wight Gallery and Benjamin Chaffee.


Entering the 2nd floor gallery is an enamoring experience. Directly across from the doorway, Wall Gradient 02 is adhered to the far wall. Its presence is a negative value in that the color white is a positive expression of light. The slight gradations, ranging from 90% gray color saturation to 0%, that compose the image are heightened by the intensely white environs which accentuate the natural gradations of shadow that give form to what we can see. OK, so I’m starting to like it.


The first room is a little overwhelming, though, on account of the large Wall Gradient 02. It has a quality similar to watching a video of a computer screen. In this case is due to a translation issue between the computer and the printer, lending somewhat regular lines of gradation amongst the larger gradient. The effect is that your eyes want to travel up but are simultaneously being pulled back down towards the center of the image. I shake my head and rub my eyes and head to the second room to finish my survey before returning to the first.

Installation view of Sterling Lawrence's Gradient 106. Image courtesy of Tony Wight Gallery and Benjamin Chaffee.


Here, two smaller gradient works are hung from opposing walls. Each is comprised of four sheets that curl slightly, but uniformly, on the bottom. The gradient on the left, Gradient 106, makes use of violet and blue hues that tend towards the pastel of a Midwestern sunset.

Opposite, Gradient 103, is like a dirty sunrise, an orange sherbet cone rolled in coal dust. The pairing reminded me of an anecdote from Don DeLillo’s novel, White Noise, concerning the increasing awesomeness of sunsets due to particles of pollutants in the atmosphere. In between these two images, two lamps, Lamp 01 and Lamp 02, sit unplugged, their cords wrapped neatly and secured with ties.

Sterling Lawrence. Rack 02. 2011. Image courtesy of Tony Wight Gallery and Benjamin Chaffee.


They sit as an exercise in intended yet denied functionality: distinct from the space they inhabit, unactivated and unconnected from the literal energy of the room they inhabit. They are simple and again play on the use of shadow to accentuate gestalt. One can’t help but imagine the shadow play the light bulbs would initiate were they to be turned on.

In the end, everything seems to come back to form for Lawrence. Returning to the first room, I turned my attention to the less dominant work such as Framed Grey Panel Work 01. A more traditional composition, it is an exercise in deformation through creating a limited pattern and then disrupting it. The first room also has two racks (as seen an above image) Rack 01 and Rack 02, which seem to serve two completely different purposes for the artist. Rack 01 has a dismantled cut-out hung from it like a deconstructed two-dimensional doll. The humanoid remainder is missing and marked by an unadorned peg.

Rack 02 on the other hand has two chalk cones like the kind used in pool halls and what the artist considers natural gradients. Here, materiality, form, and luminosity begin to dissolve incrementally, of course. Chalk, a mineral composed of loosely packed calcite, flakes to the touch and leaves its white traces. While light does not flake, it most certainly leaves its traces in the shadows that determine form.


-Joel Kuennen, ArtSlant Staff Writer


Posted by Joel Kuennen on 10/31/11 | tags: conceptual

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