Installation view of “Instructions Included” at David Lusk Gallery, 2015. Image courtesy of David Lusk Gallery.
Traditional painting and folk art collide in the work of Memphis-based Tad Lauritzen Wright. Mining popular culture and art history, the artist has developed a practice that balances a childlike style with a challenging conceptual framework. In his latest solo show, “Instructions Included” at David Lusk Gallery, Lauritzen Wright uses his eclectic, whimsical approach to tackle our relationship with the natural environment.
As its title suggests, the show consists of paintings and sculpture accompanied by pithy instructional cartoon-like images and captions, painted on canvas, that hint at the inspiration behind each work. “Tie your neighbor’s hose in knots to save water,” reads one that corresponds with a bright-green hose on a pedestal. Lauritzen Wright is drawing attention to the creative process and overturning conventional presumptions about it, but also mocking the history of nature-inspired art. Sometimes his tone is droll, other times quite serious. In the painting Forward Choice (2015), a grizzly bear is rendered in graceful swoops of acrylic on canvas. Across the gallery, the enameled rocks from the Interior Boulders (2015) series are strewn about. Accompanying each are the absurdist directives that inspired them: “Make a painting to intimidate the other art,” reads one; “Place boulders around your living room,” commands another.
Lauritzen Wright has built a playful concept—one that recalls Yoko Ono’s iconic 1964 work, Grapefruit, a book of absurdist instructions—around a conceptually tight framework. Whereas many artists dealing with the current state of the Earth choose to approach such subjects with gravity or severity, Lauritzen Wright addresses some ecological concerns with mischievousness. In some cases, the more biting message, the more salient the issue. A work that reads “Make seasonal monochromatic paintings to remember what comes next” below four squares marked with the first letter of each season, “W,” “S,” “S,” “F,” is a wonderfully ridiculous reminder of global warming. The one that commands “Build giant car air freshener with smell included” nods to man’s destruction of nature, imagining a world without the natural scent of evergreen.
“I believe in allowing extended possibilities of landscape, dead images, jokes, plays on art history, pop culture, and personal history,” Lauritzen Wright says in an artist’s statement. In this direct approach, the artist is able to lay bare some of the inherent contradictions at work in the relationships between artist and inspiration, mankind and nature.
“Instructions Included” is on view at David Lusk Gallery, Nashville, Sept. 1 – Oct. 3, 2015.