Magazine article Artforum International

Stephen Lapthisophon: David Shelton Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Stephen Lapthisophon: David Shelton Gallery

Article excerpt

Stephen Lapthisophon

DAVID SHELTON GALLERY

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"Coffee, seasonal fruit, spaghetti and rope"--this seemingly random list of items, which constituted the title of Dallas-based artist Stephen Lapthisophon's first solo exhibition in Houston, flagged just some of the matter suggested by the heavily worked surfaces of the twelve recent abstract compositions on paper and canvas included in the show. There was evidence of disparate conventional media, including pencil, ink, charcoal, chalk, oil pastel, oil stick, and spray paint. But more enthralling (and at times grotesquely fascinating) were the traces--along with the scents and tastes, real and imagined--of the organic stuff of everyday life: olive oil, dried leaves, dirt and soot, herbs and spices (turmeric, cinnamon, paprika, dill), bacon fat (mixed with pigments), and beard clippings. Fragments of language appeared as inscrutable scrawls sometimes written backward, as if grabbed from conversation overheard in passing and recorded piecemeal.

Lapthisophon's materials--ephemeral, nearly formless, often biotic--are arbitrary in that individually they appear not to carry symbolic weight (as opposed to, say, Joseph Beuys's use of felt and fat). Collectively, though, they evoke a quotidian sense of place and a willfully anachronistic sense of time. In one beautifully overworked canvas, October 1, 1969 (Rome), 2014, the surface was built up with shades of black, brown, and gray, and accented with mists of rose, green, and yellow. Cypress branches embedded in a muck of latex and spray paint supported drifts of rust-colored cayenne. In Pensativo, 2015, an enigmatic, compass-like icon rendered in poured black ink was surrounded by earthen splatters, sprays, stains, smears, rubbings, and illegible writing, marks that came across not as an offhand mode of provisional painting but as proof of the artist's attentive handling and care. The works resisted any appearance of newness, and moments of aesthetic discovery and pleasure were typically subverted by the anti-transcendent or even downright gross materials employed. Up close, pleasing compositions revealed themselves to be composed of the stuff of decay, populated by repellent blooms approximating mold, rust, and calcification. …

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