Thomas Lawson: Lost Wholes

This month, Thomas Lawson, dean of the School of Art at the California Institute for the Arts and editor-in-chief of East of Borneo,  presents seven large-scale paintings at David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles. The paintings feature truncated, silhouetted images of classical statuary, nineteenth-century figure studies, modernist sculpture, cave art, and contemporary newspapers on bright, monochromatic backgrounds.

Thomas Lawson, Voluptuous Panic, 2012, oil on canvas, 72 x 66 inches.

 Selecting the exhibition as a Critics Pick at ArtForum. Travis Diehl writes that

It has been three decades since Thomas Lawson first stated his strangely qualified case for figurative painting as a political Trojan horse. Still, his latest works are more than painted corpses. Lawson�s current exhibition contains only seven paintings�big, good-looking ones at that�but in fact they are inwardly catastrophic, scattered with witty casualties….Brightly colored remnants of lost wholes, these works are reminiscent of the way myths have survived: in fragments. The cowering man in The Bell screams in silent agony; he has had enough. Yet Lawson keeps on. Through its self-consciously �painterly� perversions�unexpected transparency, jarring coloration, and strange formal correspondences�this exhibition crossbreeds and sutures huge chunks of culture. Think what you will; these monsters are thrilled they exist…

Thomas Lawson, Into the Night, 2012, oil on canvas, 72 x 84 inches

These look good, don’t they? Lawson used to show at Metro Pictures in the 1980s, but his last solo there was in 1989. In 2009, he showed at Participant, and his work was included in the 2009 survey “The Pictures Generation: 1974-1984” at the Metropolitan Museum. An invitation to show again  in NYC seems overdue.

 Thomas Lawson, “Theoretical Picture,” 2012, oil on canvas,  72 x 60 inches.
Thomas Lawson: In the Shadow of the Beast,” David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. Through October 20, 2012.

Related posts:
Painting discussions in Chicago today (2010)


Subscribe to Two Coats of Paint by email.


  1. I am reminded of De Chirico.

  2. I usually come on here to criticize but these are awesome. I wish I was a rich collector because I want one. Into the Night! great color!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *