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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Discussion with Robert Lazzarini: Part 5 of 5

Today’s installment concludes my discussion with sculptor Robert Lazzarini. (Yesterday's entry is available here.)

A lot of your work seems to be held together at a level beneath the formal distortions of the surface. There seems to be a mood, a tone, a feeling that a lot of the work shares. All of the work is sort of sad, sort of unsettling.
Do you get that from the work?

I do. In all the work, the distortions make me as viewer kind of uncomfortable. It’s not the world I live in. It’s a place I can’t control.
If there is a general mood or psychology of the objects, I’m interested in subjects or themes related to finality. The notion of memento mori is a genre within still life that I think these objects refer to. For instance, the teacup that I did for the Peter Norton Family Christmas project had forget-me-not flowers on it, which is a medieval signifier of remembrance. There was a chip sculpted into the cup itself and slightly worn gilding. In the color, I wanted to present a cup that looked like it had a slight patina of many teas and coffees. Those are the things I’m thinking about—giving the object a history of use.

So if there is a mood, I would say that hopefully it is melancholia. I think the goal is to embed those things into the work without it being overt or illustrative. That’s one of the most difficult things in developing the work.

When we think of melancholia or mourning, we typically go conceptually to a place of narrative—why is that the state, what led up to it, what has caused it? But your works don’t seem to function in a narrative manner. We as viewers don’t want to engage with them and ask “Why?” or “How?” or “What happened?”
That’s an important idea for me—to eliminate narrative from the work. It’s something I’m always thinking about because sometimes narrative does present itself in a slightly abstract way, and it’s something I’m always trying to push out of the work. I find that there’s something about a matter-of-fact quality that I’m very interested in. I don’t know whether that has something to do with my interest in the notion of anonymity. The idea that something can be presented without any kind of opinion or overt voice is compelling. It’s something that lends itself to the idea of the contemplative object—a kind of void for the viewer to fall into. That’s the kind of interaction I’m interested in creating between the viewer and the object.

You’ve talked about some of the practical constraints you face when you’re making new work—the cost of rapid prototyping, the cost of materials. But I don’t know if most people know that your work is done in multiples and that cost is one of the considerations in your decision to work in this manner.
That’s true. For the most part, my edition number for a standard-sized object is a multiple of six with one or two artist proofs. For a larger piece, it’s an edition of three with one artist proof. A couple of pieces I’ve made in an edition of ten with one artist proof.

There are really two reasons for that. One of them is a practical function. Because the expense is so great in the initial design and production, I need to spread that cost out to make the works affordable.

The second reason, maybe this is also practical, is that I like the idea of there being several versions in various places, instead of just one. Over time things get lost or broken or destroyed. Maybe this goes back to my years at the Met, when I was looking at what’s around, what’s not around, what’s missing. It’s having a sense of how things live in our world and get lost and don’t exist anymore. So to have six increases the chances that one will still be around in 500 years.

Speaking of work entering the marketplace, you have your first exhibition coming up at Deitch Projects. What are you planning to show?
The works that we’re planning for that show are a series of four guns, based on .38 Smith & Wessons, a cluster of kitchen knives, and then quite a large sculpture that’s in the initial design stage that’s based on a section of subway track. The show will be in the fall of 2005, exact date to be determined.

Besides the Deitch show, how full is the work pipeline right now?
It’s pretty full. I was offered my second museum show by the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC, for July 2005 where I’ll be working with curator Carla Hanzal. As envisioned now, it will be a survey of sculpture with some new work. And I will be having a solo works on paper show at Davidson College, working with director and curator Brad Thomas. That will be in January 2006.

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