Twenty-five Books and an Ear
Eight Modern is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition, Lance Letscher: Twenty-five Books and an Ear.
“This show is primarily comprised of collaged books that are meant to function independently as well as, hopefully, gain some energy and momentum as a group,” Letscher says of his second solo show at Eight Modern. As for the show title, it “is intended to open several possible avenues of interpretation, one being an oblique reference to the Van Gogh ear mythology: the ear as a symbol of the ultimate artistic effort or offering. Also, it alludes to the idea of an audience for the contents of the books.” The Ear of the title takes concrete form in The First Man, a carving of a life-size human ear emerging from a block of marble. The sculpture was made by the artist almost 20 years ago, before he had begun working in collage, when he was known primarily as a talented sculptor of marble and wood.
Letscher continues to evolve as an artist; though, for the past decade he has worked near-exclusively with harvested papers, such as old books, records, and other found materials. After careful selection, Letscher painstakingly slices them into strips and shapes, assembling thousands of them into stunning collages. In Twenty-five Books and an Ear, Letscher invokes his medium’s origins. The books, jacketed with relics of other volumes, both embody and honor a history of the written word. Fragments of text and images ignite the imagination and offer countless associations without insisting upon any of them.
“Recognizable elements of books—their spines, endpapers, marginalia, illustrations, and pages of text meticulously shredded and recombined—are visible in many of these works, giving them the appearance of tessellated anthologies of bookness,” wrote Albert Mobilio about Letscher’s work in Bookforum. “A lifetime of literacy—from first scribble to adulthood, from the smell of kindergarten Crayolas to the purposeful study of workaday instructions—is filleted and condensed to produce a melancholic narrative, one that registers just how deeply our personal history is enmeshed with books, pens, and paper.”
Despite his meticulousness and discipline in the studio, Letscher strives to let his creative choices be as unconscious as possible, guided by “an unseen hand.” Letscher told Bleach magazine interview that he tries to “stay out of the way (of the work) as much as possible.” The artist cultivates a near-ascetic working method that eschews potential distractions, explaining “I stopped listening to the radio while I worked (I work alone) to promote a more profound sense of boredom which I hoped would improve the work. The work did get better, but it has made me into a very dull person, especially socially.”
Letscher, a lifelong resident of Austin, Texas, has built a remarkable regional, national, and international following, exhibiting throughout the United States, as well as in Paris, Berlin, Munich, Barcelona, London and Poland. In 2004, a mid-career retrospective of the artist’s work entitled Books and Parts of Books: 1996-2004 traveled to four museums. In 2009, the University of Texas Press published a full-length monograph on his work.
Letscher was trained as a printmaker at the University of Texas art school, where he received his B.F.A. and M.F.A., and attracted notice in the 1980s Dallas art scene for his small sculptures, before transitioning to drawing, print-making and eventually collage. He is also the author and illustrator of the children’s book The Perfect Machine.