January 28, 2013

A Delightful Discovery at the Metro Show:  Larry Lewis


Meandering through the mazes of booths at the Metro Show this afternoon, I was arrested by an image—a bold, graphic colorful portrait of a woman staring frontally, and assumed it was by Seymour Chwast.  But as I got closer and walked around this gallery booth, I learned the work was by a little known artist from New Canaan, Connecticut, Larry Lewis.  Lewis who was born in 1919, and lived a relatively hermetic existence in the house he grew up in, spent his free time—when not working as a corporate secretary—making art.  He had formal training at the Art Students League, and had a few shows of his paintings, but created this large body of collage art for himself.  Working on these pieces privately, he did not show them to many people; perhaps maybe only his niece. 

Over many years, and especially from the 60’s until he died in 2004, he delighted in using the Xerox machine to blow up vintage newspaper ads, and movie ephemera as the basis for books and books he created of tabloid-sized pop collages, exuberant in color and bold graphically, with interesting juxtapositions and humor.  This trove of work—redolent of Joseph Cornell, Stuart Davis and of course, Warhol—has not yet been widely seen—beyond New Canaan’s Silvermine Arts Center—where there was a show of his work in 2011. 

When Lewis died, he left all the art and other contents of his home to his niece, who meticulously went about preserving, documenting and finding a professional venue for her uncle’s work.  This weekend at the Metro Show, New Haven’s Giampietro Gallery is formally introducing the New York art world to Larry Lewis’ work.  Giampietro will be putting many of his books online in the coming weeks, and plans to show more of his work in the next few years.

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