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Art Larson. ‘The Shadow of the Flatlander’

22 October 2022 — 23 April 2023

Art Larson. ‘The Shadow of the Flatlander’

Art Larson (San Diego, 1962) interrogates the relationship between the work we see and the artist who created it. He highlights the outsider’s perspective, the observer who recognizes himself in the overlooked. He showcases the residue of ordinary moments, accumulated over a lifetime, and the artist’s shadow that leaves no trace on the landscape, yet is a part of it.

The career of Art Larson defies any attempt at pigeonholing and even questions the drive (specific to the field of art) to gain prestige from being analysed by a critical literature.

The themes that appear in The Shadow of the Flatlander include failed expectations, misunderstanding as an epistemological basis, eschatology, and the artist’s social position. The title alludes to the amusement—a far from frivolous political humour—that categorizes Larson’s approach to most of his works.

One can see in these works a rejection of big decisions and definitive projects; to paraphrase the title of the book by Larson’s compatriot Susan Sontag, everything depends where the stress falls. However, intensity also means moving through apparently contradictory territories, between unfinished or amateur works and formal virtuosity, between comic performance and video documents.

The French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy wrote in The Inoperative Community (1983) that inoperativeness does not entail inaction but rather a plea to produce, through undetectable positions, a work from anywhere and through any material, with the aim of discarding two quintessential ontological questions: What is this? What does this mean?

We can say that this drive is observed in Art Larson’s proposals, which can be understood not only because of their processual nature but above all because of what distances them from a coherent or seamless discourse.

It is thus precisely the remains that prevent art from closing in on itself, exulting within its limits. Larson somehow operates with the remains, through which he achieves a modulable language, a language that leaps from sensitivity to humour, from the fragile to the inappropriate.

On viewing the works that make up The Shadow of the Flatlander, one wonders what would become of museums if they had not rejected tentative forms, if, instead of embracing a host of dogmatisms, they had initiated a sort of journey to nowhere, an odyssey from all places and from none in particular.

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