Tom Lawson, artist and Dean of the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts), is typically associated with the Pictures Generation artists, and their concerns with the politics of the image, their circulation in media and visual culture, and the processes by which these images are made. Lawson’s current show, “In the Shadow of the Beast,” is composed of recent paintings, which borrow some of the visual cues of his prior work, while continuing in a painterly vein.
“Into the Night,” 2012, oil on canvas, 72 x 84 inches (182.9 x 213.4 cm) and “Walking On Water,” 2012, oil on canvas, 84 x 72 inches (213.4 x 182.9 cm), installation views, David Kordansky Gallery, 2012.
Lawson’s imagery pulls from numerous sources. One source, classical Greco-Roman statuary, recurs in most of the paintings, but in a painterly way that suggests to me the cover of 1960’s paperbacks of radical social theory put out by presses like Pelican. The association on my part may be random, drawn from my own perusal of my father’s book collection, which I inherited from him, but it is also prompted by a recent project Lawson did at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, where he and co-editor Stacey Allen of East of Borneo curated a library of texts (mostly from the 1970’s, but drawing on the radical authors writing in the 1960’s) that strongly influenced the development of Cal Arts.
This is only one of many avenues for entering the work, whether from the paintings’ imagery and rhetoric, graphical style, color (I’m told the colors were chosen from fashion “color forecating” about what colors are trending up next season), or cultural references. The show closes October 20th.