Thomas Lawson's work embraces the cliched conventions of modern painting and emotionally-affecting subject matter. His images have ranged from cupid-like babies and pet dogs placed on abstract fields of gestural brushmarks to murder victims in crimson washes on dense fields of menacing black, green or blue paint. Lawson equates the banality of over-used painting techniques with sentimental or terrifying imagery neutralized by constant media exposure. The combination of decontextualized paint and image reconstitutes the meaning lost in each through repetition, familiarity, expectation. The group of paintings presented in this exhibition depict murder victims — battered babies, gangland hits and hanging men surrounded by onlookers — taken from photographs in newspapers and crime magazines. A concurrent series of nearly abstract erotic images are presented in blue silhouette on deep red fields of thick paint. The paintings become concrete reminders of our conditioned response to a wide range of overexposed material.
"He responds to images of violence, death and passion in newspapers and magazines, but he responds as much to their texture, the indifference of the context in which they exist, their scale and the atmosphere that they breathe. Lawson's paintings are dark and modest in the way that only a young intellectual, aware of distance that exists between his past and the present of history, can make them." Valentin Tratansky, Figuring catalogue, Hallwalls
"Modernist convention looks sentimental to Lawson, so when he takes on the format of emblem-to-field, he overloads the emblem — whether baby, family dog or sex diagram — with its explicit meanings, all of them worn through to a contagious banality ... none of this is sheer mockery. Lawson's diptychs have a high-focus blaze, his single fields an insinuating glare. Those qualities are homages to the power of sentimentality, of nostalgia, of our yearning for the pure..." Carter Ratcliff, Illustration and Allegory catalogue, Brooke Alexander Gallery
Thomas Lawson was born in Glasgow and now lives in New York. He attended St. Andrews University and Edinburgh University in Scotland, and the City University of New York Graduate Center. Lawson has had one-person exhibitions at Artists Space and the City University in New York; and the Mercer Union Front Gallery in Toronto. His work as been included in group shows at the Drawing Center and Brooke Alexander Gallery in New York; Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax; New 57 Gallery, Edinburgh; Studio Cannaviello and Palazzo della Triennale, Milan; and Hallwalls, Buffalo. Lawson is the editor of Real Life Magazine, a regular contributor to Artforum and Flash Art, and has written for October and Art in America.
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