For the 2020 edition of The Art Show, Sperone Westwater features new works by American artist Emil Lukas.
The centerpiece is his most recent and ambitious Larva work to date, Not on Another Planet, 2019, comprised of seventy small-scale paintings made using just two key elements: soot, in the form of Sumi ink, and the markings of common housefly larvae on glass plates. Thin films of plastic or rice paper are compressed between the glass and whitewashed wood panels, resulting in varying degrees of transparency. While Lukas has worked with larvae for over thirty years, he introduced Sumi ink to this series only last year and quickly discovered a fluidity and rich spectrum of tones that amplify the illusion of layered depth already present in this body of work.
Although his practice is diverse, Lukas is best known for his Thread paintings in which colored thread accumulates around a wooden frame to luminous effect. Made alongside his other bodies of work, these reflect Lukas’s fascination with the optical properties of his chosen materials and formats, as well as a painterly attention to issues of color; he has characterized them as being “much closer to formal wet-on-wet watercolor paintings than they are to anything in the textile field.”
New circular Thread paintings, a format first exhibited in his 2019 show at Sperone Westwater, suggest the tondo format of classical art history, while their concave supports implicate the viewer in a surprisingly physical way. Standing in front of the work, the viewer finds the ambient noise of the space to be disorientingly concentrated and amplified. For Lukas, this aspect of the work marks a way of working with space as well as with optical concerns.