Ted Larsen | Stand Up, Buddha
Jan 30 – Mar 21, 2020
Robischon Gallery features four, concurrent solo exhibitions by artists Deborah Zlotsky (NY), Ted Larsen (NM), Jonathan Parker (NM) and Scott Chamberlin (CO). Each of the artists investigate abstraction through their primary means of painting and sculpture in large to notably small scale. The artworks on view reveal an uncommon eye toward composition, color and materiality while revealing a sense of humor and an engagement with, and a pursuit of, the experimental.
“Stand Up, Buddha”
In his sixth Robischon Gallery solo exhibition entitled “Stand Up, Buddha,” New Mexico artist Ted Larsen’s latest small scale, free-standing sculptures offer another dimension to his well-recognized series of signature wall works. In his previously exhibited wall sculpture, an on-going series, the precision-cut, repurposed steel, was often layered over volumetric forms. Unlike the earlier series of wall works with wooden armatures, the sculptures in the current exhibition take shape though the artist’s manipulation of the metal itself to create multiple fastened box forms joined in intimate scale. With his characteristic sophisticated stance and strong tendency toward the ironic, Larsen’s use of geometry in his work is typically in dialogue with revered tenets of art history including the movements of Geometric Abstraction, Minimalism, Op Art or Constructivism and is ultimately located between the abstract and reductive. With “Stand Up, Buddha,” Larsen shifts; intuitively interjecting something akin to a figurative quality which is uncharacteristic to what previously had been a solely formal abstract approach.
The individually constructed elements of the sculptures – repurposed steel that is sun-faded, pigment-chipped, scratched or rusted from the original life of the object – are then bricolaged; stacked or leaned and joined to form each piece. Their placement on a rough-hewn wood base transformed each sculpture in a poignant and surprising manner. Larsen states, “When I placed the assembled box forms onto wooden plinths something else unexpected happened; they became figurative. This was not my intention when I set out to make this work. At the onset, my intention was to make some small matchbox-like structures and assemble them into some sort of arrangement. Matchboxes hold a special interest for me – why, I cannot exactly explain. They are functional and yet somehow mysterious for me. I used to keep little things in matchboxes when I was a kid. When I find a matchbox, I always open it up half expecting, in child-like wonder, to find something exciting since in a manner of speaking, matchboxes hold secrets.” These matchbox-sized elements of “Stand Up, Buddha” reveal and offer an experience of a latent sentience within the work; and though not initially intended, may serve as a glimpse into the psychological, a step further than in Larsen’s other series.
"Stand up, Buddha," Larsen notes, “became the working title because the Buddha figure is normally created in a seated or reclining position.” The seven layers of white steel boxes of Stand Up, Buddha (N) shape a reliably solid ziggurat-like form. For Stand Up, Buddha (C), the seven colorful elements are leaned together to create two open spaces, yet set upon its small, table-shaped plinth, the visual movement of the sculpture may suggest the elegance and imperfection of the human form; each with a sense of individuality within Larsen’s formal impetus. Perhaps without consciously knowing it, though led by the artist’s keen intuition, in these two pieces the artist lands on a sacred numeral, as seven is the number of Ascent in Buddhism and acknowledges the seven steps of awakening. One outlier in the exhibition is Stand Up, Buddha (S) which is a red-topped, wall-mounted cylinder. Its overt intrigue lays in its alternate form from the rest of the exhibition, and unlike the other pieces, it rotates. Larsen notes, “I have been involved with this piece for fifteen years. It has undergone a few significant alterations and countless adjustments to arrive at this point. I am content with it now and am willing to proclaim its status as complete. It potentially implicates the viewer as it can be spun around. The funny thing about a monochromatic tondo is that it will appear the same no matter where it is rotated. But the moment the work is touched, the process of touching it makes whomever touched it, a part of the sculpture. In this way, the work is paradoxically never complete.” This unusual interpretation of ongoing creation illuminates the artist’s understanding of larger forces flowing beneath his typical conceptual directives.
In considering our tumultuous era, Larsen notes, “We are living in challenging times. We have many issues to address and we must figure out the best and most reasonable solution to them. It will require all of us to come together similar to how I considered the secret boxes all joined together for each piece as we must "stand up" to our responsibilities. In our fractured world, we must remember that we all live here together on this fragile world even as it seems that holding little secrets in this moment appears to be something of an issue (politically, socially or personally). When we "stand up," we are meeting our challenges in whatever form they come. If these little forms somehow have the qualities of metaphor or accidental aesthetics in the figurative, it seemed right that I should ask them to stand up and face their challenge. In a sense, this is the most didactic body of work I have yet to create. It has a message, one which will hopefully be interpreted with humor, joy, and optimism.”
Ted Larsen graduated magna cum laude from Northern Arizona University and is a recipient of the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant Award, the Artist Stipend Award, Wichita Falls Art Council, Texas, Surdna Foundation Education Travel Grant, New York, United States Representative to the Asilah Arts Festival, Morocco Representative and the Edward Albee Foundation Residency Fellowship. His work has been exhibited in solo shows at the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM, Albuquerque Museum, Amarillo Museum of Art, TX, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, CO, Northern Arizona University Museum, Flagstaff, AZ, along with exhibitions at art centers and gallery venues across the U.S. and internationally. Larsen’s work is in the collections of the New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM, the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, The Edward F. Albee Foundation, Procter & Gamble, Fidelity Investments, National Broadcasting Company, The Bolivian Consulate, Reader’s Digest, PepsiCo, The University of Miami, Krasl Art Center, Dreyfus Funds, JP Morgan Chase, Forbes and Pioneer Hi-Bred, Inc.