GRANT LEVY-LUCERO: FRUITS & FLOWERS
Girl lithe and tawny, the sun that forms
the fruits, that plumps the grains, that curls seaweeds
filled your body with joy, and you luminous eyes
and your mouth that has the smile of water.
A black yearning sun is braided into the strands
of your black mane, when you stretch your arms.
You play with the sun as with a little brook
and it leaves two dark pools in your eyes.
Girl lithe and tawny, nothing draws me towards you.
Everything bears me farther away, as though you were noon.
You are the frenzied youth of the bee,
the drunkenness of the wave, the power of the wheat-ear.
My somber heart searches for you, nevertheless,
and I love your joyful body, your slender and flowing voice.
Dark butterfly, sweet and definitive
like the wheat-field and the sun, the poppy and the water.
— “Girl Lithe and Tawny” by Pablo Neruda
Edward Ressle is pleased to present “Fruits & Flowers”, the first solo exhibition of Grant Levy-Lucero’s ceramic work in Asia. Opening to the public on January 22, the show features work created during Levy-Lucero’s residency at Chateau du Marais in France, where he was the program’s inaugural guest.
Based in Los Angeles, Levy-Lucero is inspired by the interdisciplinary and collaborative environment of the city’s art community, as well as his surrounding urban landscape. “Los Angeles right now feels to me like what I imagine New York must have felt like in the 1970s”, the artist once reflected. “You can go anywhere, to any show, and you’re going to be in the presence of all these people who are doing so much to really influence culture on an international scale.” Levy-Lucero first turned to ceramic production after nearly a decade working with fiber, knitting in his downtown studio where his neighbor, painter Laura Owens, invited different artists to work in her clay studio. Since this time, Levy-Lucero has presented his work internationally, establishing himself within the longstanding tradition of adventurous ceramic production on the West Coast, from Peter Voulkos and Ken Price to contemporary practitioners like Shio Kusaka.
A self-taught artist, Levy-Lucero is wary of art-world hierarchies and gatekeeping, and has instead cultivated a practice that resonates across audiences. His subject matter is inspired by his hometown of Los Angeles, his work a personal cartography of the urban environment. Evoking the laconic images of Ed Ruscha’s deadpan photographs of gas stations, swimming pools, and parking lots, Levy-Lucero once stated:
“If you went out and photographed every mailbox and made a book about it, there’s something interesting that will occur. It’s a way of traversing the city. The signs—that’s initially where everything started for me. I would ride my bike all over the city and photograph all these signs and through that, I was like, “I know where every sign in the whole city is.”
At the heart of Levy-Lucero's current practice is a temporal slippage that grafts contemporary logos onto ceramic forms inspired by ancient Greek amphorae and loutrophoroi. The psychic geography of the corner store—shelves packed to the brim with household cleaning products, stoner snacks, and cheap beer—replaces the dramatic representations of Grecian myth that decorate these historic vessels and coalesce into a shared cultural narrative. Levy-Lucero's branded pottery humorously asks what elements constitute our own contemporary myths, what signs and symbols form the bedrock of our own cultural grammar? His vessels conjure images of a future archaeologist lecturing before an Art History 101 class on their most recent find—a jug unearthed in the ancient city of Los Angeles, emblazoned with a long-forgotten brand.
In his creative redeployment of mundane images, Levy-Lucero draws from the history of mid-twentieth century Pop art. The handcrafted quality of his pottery imparts a humorous and irreverent texture to the normally sleek and crisp contours of advertisements, an eccentric tactility that estranges our relationship to familiar consumer products. Like the “soft sculptures” of Claes Oldenburg, icons of popular culture become peculiarly collapsed. The playfulness of Levy-Lucero's ceramics, however, also resonates deeply with the contemporary moment, a time when tactility seems to give way to ever-present sleek interfaces. The welcome infusion of haptic excitement into easily recognizable mass-circulated images draws comparison to the work of contemporary painter Gina Beavers, the two artists delighting in transgressing the boundary between so-called high and low culture.
The conversations generated by Levy-Lucero’s work take on a new meaning when they look beyond typical Americana. For the works on view in the exhibition, Levy-Lucero turned his gaze to the immediate context of Chateau de Marais and its farmland, creating vessels that mirror an outsider’s perspective of the particularities of a different cultural geography. Reflecting on earlier projects in Europe, Levy-Lucero remarked on his appropriation of signs, stating, “I’m referencing your culture, but in a way that you use it to reference your own culture.”
In addition to ceramics, the exhibition also features for the first time Levy-Lucero’s works on paper, which render in sumptuous color still-lifes of fresh produce and bright flowers. “During my time spent in the countryside of France, I was particularly interested in the transportive qualities of looking at gardens,” the artist remembers. “I started thinking about how the senses become engaged through one's imagination.” Delighting in the pastoral landscape, Levy-Lucero meditated on the migration of sensory stimulation to consumer products. “How much did this ingredient get distilled and become so far removed from its original form for the consumer?” he asks. “More so, how does using a shampoo give you the essence of biting into a cantaloupe?”
“Fruits & Flowers” is on view through February 28, 2021.
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Grant Levy-Lucero (b. 1981, Los Angeles) was given his first one-person exhibition by the painter Henry Taylor in 2016. He has since held solo shows at Night Gallery, Los Angeles (2017); VNH Gallery, Paris (2018); White Columns, New York (2019); and Edward Ressle, Shanghai (2021). Group exhibitions include Tickles, 365 Mission, Los Angeles (2015); FOCUS: Los Angeles, Art Toronto (2017); Fire and Clay, Gagosian Gallery, Geneva (2018); and 10,000 Years of Luxury, Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris (2020), which featured Levy-Lucero’s Chanel No. 5, on loan from designer Karl Lagerfeld’s collection. Levy-Lucero has recently collaborated with Acne Studios in the creation of three ceramic vessels for reproduction on their fashion products. In 2020 Levy-Lucero inaugurated the residency program at Château du Marais, France. He lives and works in Los Angeles.