Isolation, 2012

Stephen Lapthisophon

October 23 – December 1, 2012

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Stephen Lapthisophon is familiar with exhibiting in spaces that he has never seen or visited before – a result of his frequent technique of employing accumulated, found, and on-hand materials, and also a testament to his instinctual/honed mastery of arranging these materials within rooms, and across floors with an incredibly well attuned stylistic sensibility.  Scraps of notated paper, potato, a certain catalogue of signifying images, found cardboard, artist’s tape, and worn books work with the white, cream, and brown hues of sheetrock, wood, and painted brick of the gallery space.  These images and objects are encountered as residue ripe for sleuthing – a seductive puzzle and an invitation to piece things together.

Isolation, 2012 is a quick but thoughtfully considered improvisation. Before arriving in New York, Stephen began to insert himself into the space and establish a context for the installation by mailing a series of postcards and sealed envelopes to the gallery.

As I see it, there are two primary and related sets of ideas explored here: the nature of public and private experience (how we are privy to and discover information) in our time, and the epistemology of art viewing.

The postcards’ information is publicly exposed to an extent– certainly handled by numerous mailmen.  The sealed envelopes’ contents are available to the intended recipient’s eyes only.  The public/private nature of these mailings mirrors the situation of the gallery space itself.  A Slender Gamut’s location and events are posted online, but it is sealed behind three locked doors and tucked away in a private bedroom.  This installation’s viewer must have somehow heard about the space and be invited in.  Likewise, the contemporary art viewer, it is believed, must be privy to the history and importance of certain materials and art-making techniques in order to fully decipher the intended ‘meanings’ of certain works.

While his work makes use of many specific materials, images and techniques that do involve historically loaded, or only situationally accessible references, it is this very notion of being able to understand an artwork’s ‘intended meaning’ that Stephen pokes at and destructs.   What initially seems to be the case is not.  Clues point to revelation, but betray our expectation of easy understanding.  Materials, rather than holding transcendent meaning, remain just materials.  We bring our own selves to his installation- making personal and learned connections, but do not leave with consensus – Isolation.

The vintage quality of his materials (library cards and faded books) points to a pre-wikipedia era of information gathering, art viewing, experience having – one that involved a different type of effort, depth, and expectation – one that values careful perception and connection, but is wary of knowing.