Tyrus Lytton, Leo's Swift Hand (2007), acrylic, ink, and graphite on found furniture, 16"x 14"x 3" Photo credit Walker Montgomery
CLOSING NIGHT EVENT:
The Around the Globe Chantey Singers
(Art Rosenbaum, Josh Bienko , Bart Lynch, Ty Lytton & and others)
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Gallery Opens at 7:30 for last viewing.
Suggested Donation $3.00
|Saturday, July 14th, 2007
- Saturday, July 28th, 2007
Tyrus Lytton & Anthony Wislar: New Works
Curator: Rebecca Brantley
| Assistant Curator: Brigette Thomas
We are pleased to announce this summer's debut of the ATHICA Emerges program, for which artists Tyrus Lytton and Anthony Wislar were chosen from among a dozen entries. The ATHICA Emerges program was created for the sole purpose of offering local emerging artists opportunities to exhibit their work here. This is also the debut exhibition at ATHICA of co-curators Rebecca Brantley and Brigette Thomas, Art History graduate students at the Lamar Dodd School of Art at the University of Georgia (UGA) and ATHICA Board members.
Wislar and Lytton share a similar aesthetic, combining abstraction with figuration in works whose characters occupy an alternate, fantastical world. While Wislar's solitary or sparsely grouped figures exist on clean expanses of white or raw canvas, Lytton's figures—some human, some hybrid creatures—are usually composed directly on the raw wood of found objects such as discarded bureau drawers, with only a trace of landscape or decorative motif to accompany them. Lytton also employs the occasional interactive element, such as a button that produces a sound or a request for viewers to sit on a stool and look up to see a painting.
Wislar has professed an interest in identity and how it is shaped by culture, especially during adolescence. His figures all seem to wear costumes and engaged in cryptic, almost futile, activities, as if to suggest that the search for identity—so formative to our conception of self—is also a very performative task imposed on us by culture. Lytton's paintings are likewise engaged with culture, appropriating elements that range from contemporary popular culture to classical motifs, such as late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth-century Spanish prints, with a smattering of everything else in between: ancient myth, Rennaissance imagery , fashion, erotic art, and comic books.
Lytton utilizes scraps of furniture, discarded toys, cheap plastic jewels, and other street and thrift store finds as supports and sculptural contexts for his paintings. While these objects bring with them a hint of nostalgia, Lytton's whimsical aesthetic seems more concerned with wit and irony than uncritical fondness for the past. Take Untitled (2007) for example. A framed photographic portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. that nicely includes a built-in lamp, it has been altered to look as it never would have in its original circa-1960-something context: Lytton has surrounded the iconic figure's face with a layer of bright, lime green paint (a color that also appears on several other paintings in this exhibition). Attached to the now lusterless brass frame are miniature plastic figurines that are arranged so that the cowboy, Indian and police characters are engaged in an imaginary battle around the solemn-faced King. These dangerously simple personifications of different races, reduced here to kindergarten hues, smartly play with the very serious issue of race, reminding the viewer that both cowboy-and-Indian toys and King himself are products of the same era. Finally, and as if to thoroughly remove the object from its mid-century context, Lytton has left his own signature alongside the original artist's own boldly-printed name. The dual signatures not only subvert the conventional role of the signature on a painting—to announce the artist's untouchable originality, individuality and sole authorship of the work of art—but perhaps also call out the absurdity of signing a mass-produced reproduction of such an well known figure.
Lytton's Genesis (2007) is painted onto a upside down, unattached drawer that has been divided into two sections by a wooden shelf, and in its upper register depicts another easily recognizable character, this time the King of Rock 'n Roll, Elvis. Since Lytton professes an interest in melding subconscious desires with the everyday, the exposed inside of a drawer seems a perfect support for portraying otherwise hidden thoughts and fantasies. Surrounded by a flaming-orange mandala, Elvis holds a limp, vaguely phallic-looking microphone while he dances and gestures towards an enormous moon overlapped by two floating babies. Multi-colored, pasted-on jewels seem to shoot from his hand in a sperm-like configuration, toward the over-sized moon and the two babies, who are connected to strange dog-headed creatures that emerge from craters in a lunar landscape. A plastic breast has been attached to this bottom register and on closer inspection one realizes that Elvis's microphone is attached to a vaguely sinister-looking mushroom that seems to grow in this lower, darker section of the painting. As with many of his constructions, Lytton also paints onto the sides of Genesis, including a tiny camera window built into the left hand side.
Aside from painting iconic twentieth-century figures into strange, imaginary situations, Lytton also treads into the realm of ancient Greek myth, a long-established territory for artists. In his Rape of Europa (2007), a black-haired Europa is complete with Bettie Paige bangs, almost blue-white skin, and pink underwear. Indeed, she resembles the vintage pin-up girl more than the mythical maiden that inspired Zeus, disguised as a bull, to kidnap her. Here the bull has been reduced to a cutout piece of textured gold paper while the ocean that Zeus transported her across is depicted with organic, cloud-like layers of white paper upon which the updated Europa dangerously teeters.
While Lytton is unafraid to add the occasional plastic, glitter and, in one aforementioned instance a single synthetic breast, to his burlesque paintings, Wislar's imagery is simple and refined, as if the artist is engaged in a process of reduction that results in quiet, enigmatic paintings. Yet like Lytton, Wislar's imagery is imbued with touches of nostalgia. Wislar uses old photographs and imagery culled from vintage encyclopedias and periodicals as source material, though since these images are merely a starting point for the artist, their presence is hardly evident in the finished works. While Lytton's figures are often readily recognizable, Wislar 's characters are vague, as if they have yet to fully materialize and seem to float in blank, sparse spaces that seem to belong to the realm of memory or metaphor. Furthermore, most of the figures either look away from the viewer or have their faces obscured in some way. This lack of clarity could stem from Wislar's interest in the struggle, particularly in the transitional, erratic period of adolescence, to find identity. Checking It Out
Parade (2007) does not portray a parade at its most glorious. Rather, Wislar depicts the remnants of a Halloween parade as it fades away. A street light adumbrated in faint pencil marks seems to almost disappear next to the assortment of costumed figures that includes a man in a cape and phantom-of-the-opera mask and a figure in full dog suit. It is unclear whether these are parade participants or parade goers, and the contemplative mood of this cluster of figures seems at odds with what should be a happy, celebratory moment. Its thematic companion, Parade Picture 2 (2007) shows an even more solitary fragment of a parade. A grinning child in an over-sized suit and painted, clown-like face pulls a cardboard coffin on wheels behind him. A giant skull head has been painted on the side of the half-open coffin and a dull mirror with nothing reflected in its surface is attached to the front of the rolling casket. Both morbid and whimsical, Wislar juxtaposes a child with an emblem of mortality in this painting, playing with the perceived incongruity and absurdity of pairing childhood and death, yet he also shows that the two are ultimately linked.
Untitled Studio (2007) shows a man with long dark hair, full mustache and long overcoat carrying a large stretched canvas. An almost impossible weight to carry, four more canvases fall down in front of him. The backside of each canvas faces the viewer rather than the front, leaving it a mystery as to what is depicted on the other side. Two of the paintings seem incomplete, with only a corner showing behind the others, as the rest of the canvas seems to have disappeared. A few small drips of paint seem to drop from the large canvas that weighs the man down, though the thick drips of paint on the otherwise smooth canvas also interrupt the illusion that the viewer experiences when encountering the work of art itself. Wislar has created a complicated image that addresses the very notion of looking at and making art. The depicted artist seems unable to control the numerous canvases that fall from his hand just as an artist cannot control how an image is viewed and interpreted by those who encounter his work. The seemingly accidental marks never allow the viewer to forget that he or she is in the process of looking at a work of art.
Wislar and Lytton share an imaginative, playful style that often suggests an underlying narrative. They also share a commitment to a carefully rendered figurative style within fantastical, otherworldly environments. Lytton's densely packed paintings lead the eye in myriad directions while Wislar's approach is deliberate, poetic and muted. Both artists' visions are complex, warranting and rewarding a second look.
Both artists are graduates of the UGA Lamar Dodd School of Art. Lytton earned a BFA at UGA in 2006 and Wislar graduated with a MAED from UGA in 2006 and holds a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design earned in 1992. Since graduating, Lytton has shown locally at UpDown Gallery, Nuci’s Space and other regional venues. Wislar, who showed in ATHICA's Transience exhibition last January, has shown work regionally as well as in Nashville, Chicago and Sweden. He also produces work in alternative media, such as sound art. Lytton grew up in Stone Mountain and Lilburn, Georgia. Wislar was raised in Baltimore and spent time in Chicago after earning his undergraduate degree, moving to Athens from Chicago in 2002. (2007) includes a group of three identically clad boys in beige, brown and black collectively staring at a mysterious silver orb floating between them. With its boy-scout-like figures, it's a scenario reminiscent of fifties B-grade science fiction Americana, but the pared-down, highly charged scene resists such literal interpretation.
with editorial assistance by
ATHICA Director Lizzie Zucker Saltz.