Headcase

Posted on February 2, 2015

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By: Lees Romano

headcase

Over the past five months, artists Tad Lauritzen Wright and Hamlett Dobbins of Mellow Mountain Coalition have painted about 50 heads. The heads, which currently animate the walls of Lauritzen Wright’s Midtown garage/studio, are made from neon-colored paper and googly eyes. Bodies do not accompany them. These heads are heads in the same way that the Muppets are animals; they are more head-like than anything else, but cannot exactly be called naturalistic.

These recent works from Lauritzen Wright and Dobbins are the latest effort in the artists’ longtime collaborations. In the artists’ separate careers, each is represented by David Lusk Gallery. Friday, January 23rd marked the friends’ fifth collaborative show opening. An exhibition titled “Born to Hula,” named after a beloved Queens of the Stone Age anthem, is now showing at Glitch until February 6th. The paintings in the exhibition are different from the artists’ earlier collaborations. In the past, works have been complied over long periods via mail, but for this project, Lauritzen Wright and Dobbins created these pieces working together in the same room, working together one morning per week.

Because both of the men are fathers, one of the proposed titles for the show was “Daddy Daycare.” A nonverbal conversation transpires at Daddy Daycare; paintings are passed back and forth, metal albums are played, and pieces are added to or reduced to parts for other paintings.

The garage studio where Lauritzen Wright and Dobbins work is crowded with liquid acrylics and dirty brushes, torn or otherwise modified sheets of paper, half-formed drawings, and glittery material tests. There are also several works attributed to Lauritzen Wright’s 6-year-old daughter, whom the artist cites as one of his major current influences.

The aesthetic in “Born to Hula” is child-like; monstrous and colorful and plastic like recycled toys. However, there is also a twist of jaded junkiness in the works. In one of the painting’s darker moments, there is a reminder that even pristine swing sets must rust one day.

Lauritzen Wright and Dobbins often work at a large scale and a fast pace, without thoughts for past creations. It will be interesting to see Lauritzen Wright’s and Dobbins’ work at Glitch, Adam Farmer’s house gallery (the preferred term an “art environment”) between Cooper and East Parkway that has hosted Memphis’ most dynamic collaborative shows over the past year. Even without the free use of googly eyes, Laurtizen Wright and Dobbins collaboration would feel loose, creative, casual, and warm. Furthermore, the walls at Glitch are a riot of color and pattern; Farmer repaints the entire gallery space for each exhibition.

The thick, busy nature of the environment in the gallery causes artists’ installation plans to become improvisations. Now, twelve rectangular mixed-media paintings are ordered in strict, rigid rows to the left of the doorway of the gallery, and on the largest wall inside the gallery is a mass of oval-shaped paintings arranged loosely. The paintings in the show are concerned with metamorphosis, transformation, and epiphany, and tinged with references to myth, pop culture, and art history, certainly fitting with the texture of the city of Memphis itself.

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Posted in: Arts