By NOAH BECKER, SEPT. 2017
I spoke to artist Robert Lazzarini about his new show at De Buck Gallery in New York’s Chelsea arts district.
Noah Becker: What does the title of your new show Inflorescence refer to?
Robert Lazzarini: To the possibilities of a new flowering. Bookending that with the fact that Sharon Tate was 8 1/2 months pregnant when she was murdered, hope descends beyond tragedy into something unthinkable. I first started working on this exhibit when my wife was pregnant with our daughter Nova. I know my greatest fear at the time was the possibility of losing her. There were no complications and there was no reason to believe we would, but it can happen and you have to prepare yourself and some place in your mind for it.
Becker: Your work forces viewers to re-think the way they look at art.
Lazzarini: It’s important to me that my work attempts to create new ways to look at things. In the case of the paintings in the exhibit, I’m using image-pattern conflict as a way to emphasize the limitations of vision. As the viewer approaches a painting, the subject retreats, which is somewhat antithetical to the viewer’s traditional relationship to painting. One would approach a work to get a more intimate relationship to it. In this case, figure becomes ground.
Becker: How does the appropriation of images and objects play into your work?
Lazzarini: I’m interested in starting the process with something that has some sort of shared history, something that resonates collectively. Then, thinking about invention, instead of making something out of nothing, creating something by altering another thing out of its original state. And in doing so, creating a wholly new experience.
Robert Lazzarini, O25, 2017, Acrylic on canvas, 70 x 60 inches, 178 x 152 cm (left), O26, 2017, Acrylic on canvas, 70 x 60 inches. 178 x 152 cm (right)
Becker: There is a lot of movement in these paintings, what was your way of thinking about movement?
Lazzarini: I’m thinking about the movement of the viewer navigating the works. To make a work that changes based on the viewer’s proximity is to have an object or painting that unfolds over time. It’s also a way of creating a foil to stasis in art.
Becker: Sharon Tate appears in your paintings, was this a way of connecting to historical events, or purely visual?
Lazzarini: Sharon is an archetype. Most notably for the physical manner of her death and the tragedy around it. I was interested in creating a relationship between that loss and the failings of vision. The image-pattern conflict is a way to generate an irresolvable contradiction between hard optics and receding image.
Becker: What are you trying to present with the long-running theme of violence in your work?
Lazzarini: America has a culture of violence. It’s one of the ways that we define ourselves. We are also entertained by it. (The Ancient Romans come to mind). But it’s also something that speaks to our vulnerability: of course our corporeal fragility but more at the frailty of Society as an ordered community.
Becker: Tell me about the three-strand rope hanging in the gallery?
Lazzarini: The rope is a formal device. It creates an additional interference pattern when viewed in front of the paintings. It is the physical participation of an object in conjunction with hard opticality. Once again, the eye has trouble parsing the information. Also, Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring were strung up with white 3/4 inch three-strand nylon rope when they were murdered.
Becker: What kind of stripes are you using in the new paintings?
Lazzarini: They are optical gratings subjected to compound sine waves. In other words, mathematical distortions of gratings.
Becker: Why did you decide to use a traditional material like canvas for your paintings?
Lazzarini: I was interested in directing the viewer to other things besides the substrate.
Becker: How do you want this series to inhabit the space and interact with the viewer?
Lazzarini: I want to solicit the viewer to move around the works in order to understand them.
Becker: Is there a connection between these paintings and your sculptural pieces?
Lazzarini: Beyond the subjects, I would say that the relationship is between opticality and phenomenology. The bodily experience of viewing a work of art is limited and by navigating the works we are able to add additional information. This becomes more pertinent with a work of art that is in a continual state of change.
Becker: Can you talk about the large gold sculptural piece?
Lazzarini: It’s based on a Hollywood Regency gold-toned wall decor of a flowering dogwood branch. I wanted to use something that would be found in the homes of the time. One idea being that the ultimate target of the Manson Family were the “haves”. Besides the murders, the events represent a violation of the sanctity of the home. I also like the idea that the flowering branch and the re-representation of nature as interior decor captures some of the innocence of Sharon. The sculpture’s title, Creepy Crawl, refers to how, prior to their killing spree, the family would sneak into people’s homes and rearrange furniture. In the sculpture, the forms of the original Hollywood Regency decoration were subjected to an unforseen force to create the mathematical distortion. WM