Artist of the Week

Sterling Lawrence

February 5, 2016

Sterling Lawrence is an artist living and working in Chicago. He received his MFA in 2011 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is currently an instructor in the Print Media Department at SAIC. He has exhibited in Chicago with Document Gallery, Tony Wight Gallery, Devening Projects, New Capital via Forever and Always Gallery, and outside Chicago at Soloway Gallery in Brooklyn, Scotty Enterprises in Berlin, Pacific Northwest College of Art Portland OR, and Launch F-18. in New York.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. Grew up in a military family. We lived in Frankfurt and Stuggart until I was entering into middle school. I was living in Portland, Oregon before moving to Chicago. It’s going on eleven years living in this city. I keep a studio close to my apartment in Pilsen that I share with two buddies Alex Valentine and Brian Rush.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? Back in September I was included in a group show entitled Split Difference curated by Samantha Topol in the Mallers Building on Jewelers Row here in Chicago. Upcoming in February, I will be down in Mexico City showing with Document Gallery at Material Art Fair. In March, a solo exhibition at Document Gallery in Chicago.

What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other artists are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing?

Addressing Politics of outreach. How can art traverse its borders and fulfill a life beyond itself? Is it possible to do so now and at what cost?

Hook and Mirror 2015 | wood, aluminum, two panels | 24"x36"
Hook and Mirror 2015 | wood, aluminum, two panels | 24″x36″

How did your interest in art begin? It probably started being an only child and having to entertain myself. My family moved around a lot so we were never in one city for long. Something about being temporary stationed in a place, organizing my environment and then moving again had a large impact.

Casting Elbows 2015 |polyurethane and aluminum | 12″x12″x4″

If you had to explain your work to a stranger, what would you say? My work uses the language of sculpture, image production, and installation. I often produce multiple works at once, which creates a unique conversation between them both materially and contextually. Exploring varying topics in my practice, my exhibitions revolve around what I am researching at the moment, which influences the form and content of the work. Some umbrella topics include furniture design and architecture, human factors, anthropometric and ergonomic studies, the body in relation to objects, advertising posters, and lighting, among others. Design seems to be haunted by its historical appearance, so much so that the appropriation of it allows for a gapped perversion of information, which produces an interpretive loop or relay through the handling of materials. Surfaces reflect color cast from wall works. Scale is considered in relation to the body, and knobs, surfaces, and shelves are distorted in measure. Works are not intended to remain together so the temporal nature of the potential network is always at some tension in an exhibition. There is a funny thing that happens when you move. You leave items behind and reorganize the things that were kept from the previous place you inhabited. It becomes an exploration into the presence of occupying space—where the world is a reflection in the surface and placement of the work. I try to make forms and images that confuse the sensibilities of what is being offered, but not explored. Utilizing moments of illusion to enviably dissipate the constitution of an image.

Arch Lamp 2012 | wire, powder coated, lamp components, bulb | 32" x 88" (each)
Arch Lamp 2012 | wire, powder coated, lamp components, bulb | 32″ x 88″ (each)
Arch Study 2012 | archival pigment print mounted to dibond | 24″x20″

Do you have any guilty pleasures? I love pocket lighters.

Room Divider version 1 2013|powder coated aluminum, hardware, fabricated moving blanket
Room Divider version 1 2013|powder coated aluminum, hardware, fabricated moving blanket

What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? Phillipe Parreno’s show at the armory H {N)Y P N(Y} OSIS. It was the first time I was able to view his video Marilyn.

Wall Rack 01 | powder coated aluminum, felt pocket, black shirt and socks | 4’x6′

What artists are you interested in right now? Robert Gober. He was able to establish a moving state of apprehension by installing his sink series in varying built environments. Nancy Lupo, Nicole Wermers, Robert Grovesnor, and Hiemo Zobernig are also really on my mind.

What do you collect? I have a record collection, a rock collection, stamp collection, and book collection. All weigh too much and not ideal when moving, but I keep collecting.

Table 01, 2011 | Cast plastic, foam, wood and oil enamel | 59″x34″x11″

What’s your favorite thing about your city? The lake is really a nice geographic feature here.

What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? Coffee and trail mix.

What do you do when you’re not working on art? I really enjoy running, and try to be out doing that four to five days a week. Reading and chill vibes are very important as well.

Rack 03 2015 | rubber, aluminum and hardware | 70”x17”x25.5”

Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? At the MFA thesis show I presented these adhesive wall gradient works and a sculptural lamp form, which was on the floor located in a corridor. During the opening as visitors came in the floor space was consummated. My floor sculpture was pulled up against the wall and the wall works were leaned against. These works, muted by their material resist adhered to the wall, became supports for people to lean against and converse. It was a moment where the line between a window and room merged and context in what was important shifted for me.

Study for a Void 1 & 1.2 2013 | powder coated aluminum, lamp hardware | 8.5′ x3′