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Taking Aim

Southern magazine a starting point for Lauritzen Wright.

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Several years ago, while waiting in a dentist's office, artist Tad Lauritzen Wright picked up the magazine Garden & Gun. Without opening it, he knew immediately that the title would serve as the impetus for future artwork, the result of which, "Garden & Gun," is currently on view at the David Lusk Gallery through October 27th.

After that first, brief encounter with Garden & Gun, Lauritzen Wright sought out more copies and read articles online. He became fascinated with the magazine and its tagline, "Soul of the South." Initially, his work was directly about the articles featured in the magazine. He abandoned this fairly quickly, however, not wanting the work to simply be illustrations of the imagery and subject matter of the articles.

"It would have been an easy way going about making the work," Lauritzen Wright says. "But it wasn't a valid way for me to do it. It didn't say anything about what I wanted to say."

So his approach to the work became more abstract and personal, the articles used only as a starting point — a process evident in the piece titled A Tear for Mark.

That work began with an article about the Kentucky Derby, which in turn led Lauritzen Wright to think about his relationship with horses. He thought about the Shetland pony named Blacky he had as a child. The pony died when Lauritzen Wright was 9, something he did not learn until he was 17, as his parents had told him "Blacky was sent to live with the cows on a farm." Lauritzen Wright is also a big fan of the indie rock band Sparklehorse and its lead singer Mark Linkous, who committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. The artist also started to think about the last time he watched the Kentucky Derby, recalling the tragic events that led to the immediate euthanasia of filly Eight Belles while still on the racetrack at Churchill Downs in 2008. These three disparate and grievous events were combined into A Tear for Mark, a "shiny, happy horse painting," Lauritzen Wright says.

"If the people do not read the titles, then the show is about flowers and animals. The titles mess everything up," he says. (One can only hope to know the stories behind the work with titles such as Crazy Aunt Teena, Rainbow Cult, Before the Visions, and Goodnight Sweetheart, a 48" x 60" silver and gold painting of a hand cannon.)

Lauritzen Wright is primarily known for his collages, one-line drawings, and word puzzles. For years, he was exclusively interested in very flat paint applications. With this latest body of work, he says, "I am interested in texture — an experimentation with paint, paint manipulation, to see what I can make happen."

He's also using spray paint for the first time. These experiments result in work that is about the physicality of painting and pushing his painting into a different direction. This methodology is evident in Forgetting Where I'm From and Left Undone, where the paint is built up on the surface (envision the icing of a cupcake) and is akin to the work of artists like Jonathan Lasker and Pia Fries.

As someone who has closely followed the work of Lauritzen Wright for years, I contend this is the type of exhibition he always wanted to make. There is no evidence of second-guessing any aspect of the process, from the application of the paint to subject matter.

When asked about this, Lauritzen Wright recalls an article he read about André 3000, part of the hip-hop duo OutKast.

"In the article, André 3000 says when he is writing his best music, he is in a zone. He isn't trying to be smart, he isn't thinking" he says. "For this exhibition, the whole show, I was in the zone. There was nothing I forced, nothing I didn't want to make."

At David Lusk Gallery through October 27th

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