Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Deserted Landscape: The Bag Paintings" by Walter Lab

My cousin Walter Lab will have a series called "Deserted Landscapes: The Bag Paintings" at the Wayne and Miriam Prim Theater Gallery in the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, from September 20, 2008 - December 07, 2008. (That's an oil painting, folks, not a photograph.)

Walter Lab often chooses to paint those objects that best suggest the environmental and social demise of our culture: improvised shelters of homeless people in LA, cargo ships filled with perhaps useless commodities (or imported food), beaches in Jamaica covered with trash.

He describes the bags in these paintings as "materialist sculpture in the public trust." Because he sees them as such, they become "claimed sculpture, site specific chance-made and chanced-upon installations" that arouse a contradictory response in the artist: both annoyance and longing.

Lab's own words say it best:

Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? Ernst Lorenz

In the California desert, winds lift the debris of physical culture, and relocates it in the landscape. The flying membrane and textual graphics of packaging is snagged on bushes, heaving where it is caught. Whipped and filled by desert bellows, shopping bags become ornaments, drapery, jewelry, signage, perversity, beauty.

Annoyance and longing are two strong human responses to the social phenomena of scattered packaging and ubiquitous plastics and to the physical anthropological presence of consumer debris in our surroundings.

Painting plastic bags on bushes, I am painting advertising set out like balloons into the wind, signage, romantic irony, diminished literacy, commerce and recall (human memory), the cheapest use of cheap oil and cheap gas, the demand for green technology. The uncertainty of humanity. I am also painting objects transformed into ornaments, into drapery and jewelry, weighted with opinion, objects believed to be perverse (annoying), or maybe elegant.

You could say that I am an optimist referencing the surety of change, the surety of survival. Yet I don’t offer a solution, I only describe the problem (longing).

You will appreciate these paintings if, like me, you get a queasy feeling in your stomach each time you use an extra plastic bag when you shop. Click on the image at the left to go to the Nevada Museum of Art and information about their upcoming Art and Environment Conference.

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