Thursday, May 28, 2009

Re-furniture Recovery

The many talents of Steve Lawler

The Weekly Volcano, May 28, 2009
pictured: installation view of gallery, photo courtesy Gallery Madera

Woodworker Steve Lawler is a man of many talents. His handcrafted furniture — or as he calls it, “re-Furniture” — is both beautiful and functional, and it is made from reclaimed fir and scrap plywood collected from local cabinet and furniture shops.

But that’s just one small part of his many talents. As seen in his latest show, Recover, at Gallery Madera, he is also a painter, photographer, sculptor and collage artist. “My work represents my passion for two things: First, reusing what others have found to be useless and second, creating something in a way that nobody has thought of before,” Lawler says.

Particularly attractive in his current show at Madera are groupings of chairs, coffee tables and lamps made of recycled wood and featuring strips of variously patterned wood. His table tops tend to be made from pieces of unequal length, which create jagged and slightly off-square shapes. Typically two sides of his tables with be jagged (offset strips of wood of different lengths), and the opposing sides or ends will be straight. One table top made from triangular-shapes strips looks like a staircase when looked down upon from above, an effect that is more noticeable in the photograph on the gallery’s Web site than in person.

His lamps and lamp shades employ combinations of collage and woodwork in unique modernist-classical styles that are sleek, simple and striking. One of my favorite lamps in this show has an angular stand with a map of Texas collaged on it.

His collages combine modern architectonic forms, squares and circles with organic shapes on flat surfaces with loosely brushed, layered and scraped surfaces and often some strange little bit of a figure or face or recognizable object that lends the mostly abstract collages a funky or humorous quality. These collages — especially the larger ones — remind me very much of work by Tom Anderson, whose work can be seen at Robert Daniel Gallery and in Anderson’s studio in downtown Olympia. There are two very attractive collages of this type on the back wall of Gallery Madera with rich reddish-brown colors and strange floating amoeba-like shapes in bright tones of red, blue and yellow that glow as if lighted from within.

His found wood sculptures are mostly small and more rugged looking than his furniture or his collages, often made from rusted metal and old wood, and although some of them (particularly the abstracts) are excellent, some of them are gimmicky with trite imagery — a cruxifix with a bent wire Jesus being one example of imagery that is just too corny. Another one with a little G.I. Joe figure hanging from an abstract tower-like form is similarly gimmicky, but I liked it nevertheless.

Likewise, his acrylic portraits of Mexican men, women and children are a little too common looking, but nicely done; and the people look like real people you could get to know and like, not some generalized ethnic types.
Overall it’s a very nice show.

[Gallery Madera, Steve Lawler’s Recovery, through June 6, 2210 Court A, Tacoma, 253.572.1218]

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