Thursday, December 13, 2018

Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt Tenemental (With Sighs Too Deep For Words) Howl Gallery.

This is the perfect show for the Christmas season. Joyous, glittery, shinning and fun but with deep emotions running under and through this unique display. I gladly took it in yesterday leaving with a big smile on my face and deep gratitude for this wonderful artist. I'm feeling a bit lazy so I will repeat my long review of his big show at P.S. 1 from a few years back which should stand today as it did back then. The show (and that's what it is a show of shows) is only on until December 19th, they should extend the run to at least after New Year's. That said my previous review from 2012.
Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt: Tender Love Among the Junk. P.S 1. Moma
This is an extraordinary overflowing beautiful retrospective of the art of Thomas Lanigan- Schmidt that is full of marvelous sculptures, drawings and objects that are generally made from everyday materials that one might find at home or in the street. The images and themes that have interested Schmidt for over 40 years include religion, pop culture and sexuality of the gay kind.
His work is also political and kind, sweet and caring. Its also emotional and all embracing, something that the Catholic Church which plays such an important part in his life and art, constantly fails to do. The first thing of course one notices is the wild and garish use of color and surfaces, tinsel and foil shinny and hot. Our lady of the 99 cents store. This show is an eyeful and is overwhelming in its imagery and beauty. There is plenty to get just from the surface of his objects, and I suppose one can enjoy them in a superficial and camp way a chuckle here a giggle there, but deep down underneath this surface is also a running stream which is full of hurt, joy, hope, loss, remembrance and emotion.
I don’t think I have ever seen such a raw and open autobiographical display by a contemporary artist or a body of art as profoundly moving as Schmidt’s. Obsessive (that’s putting it mildly) and childlike in its craft, this is a childhood never lost, no matter how painful it may have been, Schmidt is an artist who taps into his background for inspiration and ideas, and then lays it out like a banquet for us to pick from. Brought up in the Catholic church this upbringing as I said plays a huge part in his artistic oeuvre, so everywhere we look we see icons, chalices, Madonna’s alters, nuns, angels and religious artifacts and images mostly made of the ever present color foils and tinsels. Religion and the church meet up in pieces with tinfoil rats and amazingly big and colorful cockroaches along with homoerotic images and faded photos of movie stars.
There is a large and wonderful series of vivid beautiful drawings set in tin foil pans that form ready-made frames for the drawings, I mean what else would one use tin foil pans for? I should mention that I’ve known Tommy for over 40 years and our paths probably first crossed the night of the Stonewall Riots in which he played a pivotal role and turns up in some of Fred McDarrah’s iconic photographs of that event. I was there also but only as an onlooker a 22 year old pretty Jewish boy from Brooklyn new to the city just coming home (and coming out) from the bars, I often wonder if Tommy ran by me as I nervously watched these brave street kids and drag queens take back the night. I was on the cusp of my art world baptism and a few months later my poet friend would take me to meet Tommy or Mr. T, as he was then known at his Lower East Side apartment.
I was thrown off guard by him and his art and his place both actual and otherwise, and he gifted me with a pair of foil sunglasses that I hope I still have somewhere. I think my poet friend brought me to meet him for a number of reasons one of which was to show me that there was another way to be an artist, another way to make art, and that it was fine Ira Joel for you to hang out with your big shot art world friends in their big Soho lofts and to be the youngest artist to ever be in a Whitney Annual, but please take note that this is not the only way to be an artist and that nothing last forever. Eventually I did get it.


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