Lari Pittman: Opaque, Translucent and Luminous
1. For his first exhibition in South Korea, Lari Pittman turns his gaze outward from examining primarily Western histories and cultural pathologies towards a wider evaluation of our common global psyche
2. Pittman’s decades-long practice reflects his enduring fascination with human nature, the construction of political histories and mythologies, and sociocultural relationships
Lehmann Maupin announces the opening of its new and expanded gallery space in Hannam-dong, Seoul and its inaugural exhibition, Opaque, Translucent and Luminous, a presentation of new work by Los Angeles-based artist Lari Pittman.
The artist’s first exhibition in South Korea, Opaque, Translucent and Luminous inaugurates the opening of Lehmann Maupin’s new home in Seoul, a 2,600 square-foot venue that dramatically expands the gallery’s previous imprint in the city. Designed by the award-winning firm Society of Architecture (SoA), the space occupies two stories in the Hannam-dong neighborhood and also boasts an outdoor terrace to exhibit sculpture. Spanning both floors of the gallery, Opaque, Translucent and Luminous offers an homage to big cities, reaffirming their vitality, dynamism, and importance in the face of the destabilizing effects of the global pandemic on urban life.
Pittman’s decades-long practice reflects his enduring fascination with human nature, the construction of political histories and mythologies, and sociocultural relationships. His unique visual aesthetic—with skillful layering of signs and symbols, varied painting techniques, and rich, intricate patterns—has established him as one of the most significant painters of his generation.
For his first exhibition in South Korea, Pittman turns his gaze outward from examining primarily Western histories and cultural pathologies towards a wider evaluation of our common global psyche. With consideration to the collective effects of the last two years, Pittman’s newest body of work aligns itself with the visionary, positive, and ebullient, using art to envision a viable alternative to our current state of affairs and another, brighter version of the present or future. Organized in three titular cycles meant to be experienced in sequential order, the work in Opaque, Translucent and Luminous argues that the essential theater of humanity continues to play out in the world’s largest metropolises, affirming the centrality of the urban over the rural despite the many recent setbacks to city living. Fittingly, many of the works in this series are crowded with construction—buildings sit on top of buildings, bridges stretch between competing skyscrapers, and architectural styles span from the medieval to the Victorian, industrial to postmodern. Other works depict creatures of the city, with birds resembling pigeons, swallows, or starlings, and insect-like beings with delicate legs and pincers sprawling across the canvas.
Eggs, a recurring symbol throughout Pittman’s oeuvre, are present in many works in Opaque, Translucent and Luminous. In some paintings they seem to represent pure possibility, filled with potential that could emerge at any moment. In others, they masquerade as light sources, their shape and placement recalling street lamps, or they appear elevated, standing in for public monuments. In one work, three eggs are positioned diagonally across the canvas, serving as focal points that provide a way in for the viewer. The central egg appears monument-like, its shape and placement echoed in the framing devices surrounding it, while the lower egg appears to be mounted on a lamppost, encircled with a leafy pattern that could be imagined in wrought iron. The blue tones of the painting suggest large bodies of water, locating the scene in a coastal city, while the towering bridge suggests the verticality of capitals like New York, Hong Kong, or Shanghai. In his envisioning of alternative presents or futures, Pittman’s eggs gender our renewed cities as female, contrasting the traditional conception of metropolises as innately masculine or the predominance of statues exalting male figures in our civic spaces.
Timelines and narratives are layered throughout the paintings in Opaque, Translucent and Luminous . In his signature style, Pittman presents multiple perspectives and picture planes within a single composition, mirroring the way a city can contain a multitude of divergent and overlapping stories, all occurring simultaneously. Filled with orbs, apertures, and eyes, the works seem to watch all that is unfolding within their frame. Rigorous in its approach and ambitious in its breadth, Opaque, Translucent and Luminous presents a vision of the future, fully enmeshed in, and built out of, the remains of the past.
A select work from Opaque, Translucent and Luminous was also be on view during Frieze Los Angeles (February 17–20, 2022), and a monumental, six-part painting, Crystalloluminescence (2021) which was intended to showcase at Art Basel Hong Kong (May 25–29, 2022) will be on view at the new space.