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To point out the irony surrounding Robert Lazzarini’s current show entitled “Damage,” on view at Marlborough Chelsea until February 16, is actually not ironic. The work depicting distorted American archetypes was postponed due to the damage from Hurricane Sandy (although yes, the show was scheduled prior to the weather disaster). “Sure, it’s timely,” says Lazarrini, “I’ll give you that. But I’m careful about trying to make art that’s a direct critique. That’s not really my thing.”
Lazzarrini’s “thing” focuses more on creating objects in the American landscape (and psyche) that are real — his just appear as radically distorted forms. The collection of sculptures in “Damage,” such as the 30-foot fence that required all studio hands on deck for almost 300 hours to finish, and the neon liquor sign that suggests a 9-year-old armed with Photoshop got the best of it, grasp at larger concepts in their meticulous execution. “I’m not really thinking of things through current events. And certainly not specific events,” reflects the 47-year-old, New Jersey-born artist, “I like there to be an indeterminacy to the work.” Lazzarini is determined to describe the fragility and universality contained in these representations of the familiar, by twisting, bending, and obscuring.
Guns and other weaponry are his most recognizable subjects but this show marks a departure for Lazzarini in his sculptures. The collection of objects avoid a theme — giving force to its dizzying affect exacerbated by slanted walls, windows, and doors that further contort the viewing experience. “I think of it as being almost documentarian,” Lazzarini said. “Are we screwed?,” he adds, “We have some seriously fucked up problems.”
Primarily a sculptor, Lazzarini is best known for making common objects that have been subjected to compound distortions, which have the effect of confusing visual and haptic space, complicating the space of pictures and the space of things. Lazzarini also alters the physical spaces in which these objects are seen — the ground to the object’s figure — which adds to the disorienting effect that the work exerts on its audience. Offering no ideal point of view, and so compelling its viewers to walk around the work, Lazzarini’s sculptures trace their lineage back to the 1960s, to the introduction of phenomenology into the discourse of art and to minimalism. He lives and works in New York and is represented in New York by Marlborough Chelsea.