Michael Morris and Attila Richard Lukacs
Thursday, November 25, 2010
As soon as Attila Richard Lukacs graduated from the Emily Carr College of Art, he was featured in the landmark 1985 Vancouver Art Gallery show called “Young Romantics”, curated by Scott Watson. Around this time, Watson introduced Michael Morris to Lukacs, who expressed interest in moving to Berlin. Lukacs did, by 1986, and the two developed a bond based on friendship and mentorship, as Morris would take Lukacs to museums and introduce him to the work of the old masters.
Throughout his over twenty year career, Lukacs has been known for his acclaimed, controversial, large-scale paintings and post-modern approach wherein he references a multitude of sources, from classical art historical references to modern life. His handling of paint, tar, varnish, gold leaf and other materials produce an immediate, visceral impact upon the viewer. The preparatory studies for these paintings were polaroids, an instant format that has been used to great effect. Lukacs would shoot serial images of the same model holding the same pose, while experimenting with light, colour and composition, until the series of images yield a structure that lends itself well to the careful, considered planning of his paintings.
Examining the polaroid studies closely, there are clear references to classical history paintings. However, in effect, Lukacs is a creator of modern history paintings. The skinheads and soldiers that appear in his Berlin paintings, those muscular, confident, sensual males that were his objects of desire, were actually often disenfranchised youth, unique to the moment in history in which he created these works. There was chaos that resulted from the fall of Wall, producing discontented teens who had nowhere to turn and soldiers who waited in transit for up to three years before they were able to return home. The males that figured into his paintings would have been out of place had the paintings been made anywhere but Berlin around 1990, but in fact, they were representative of certain subcultures that found their way to Berlin clubs, for which many of Lukacs’ works at the time were intended.
Michael Morris represents one-half of the important collective, Image Bank, which, in the late 1960s, developed a network of some of the most influential artists of the last 50 years through correspondence. It was a first-generational approach that preceded social media by two decades and that cannot be underestimated. At the Morris/Trasov Archives, Image Bank’s output demonstrates their broad reach but also their ephemeral approach, art made with the pure intent of dialogue via exchange. Since its inception, the Archives have also been an exercise in organization that has spanned years to achieve.
Upon Lukacs’ return to Vancouver, the two artists began their collaboration to bring format and credence to the thousands of photographic studies that had survived. Morris’ work on rendering the polaroids into 3 x 4 grids is a curatorial act that aims to recontextualize a fractured set of images. On one hand, the polaroid grids allow the viewer to examine the studies and refer back to the specific Lukacs painting, or perhaps even its classical source. On the other hand, the grids, organized by Morris by model, time and place, provides context into Lukacs’ art making, as well as his ability to distill key moments in our recent collective history into his history paintings.
The polaroid grids were first exhibited in Presentation House Gallery’s show “Male” featuring the collection of New Yorker critic, Vince Aletti. This was followed by a subsequent presentation at PHG called “Polaroids” in 2008. After the PHG show, the collection of polaroid works was expanded for an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, 2009 and Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Calgary, 2010. It will be travelled to future venues by the Art Gallery of Alberta.
“Polaroids”, the book, was released in Fall 2010 with full-sized reproductions of Morris’ polaroid arrangements and essays by Scott Watson, Reid Shier, Stan Persky and Michael Turner. It is a compendium of roughly 3000 photographs taken largely between 1986 and 1996.
On Thursday, November 25, 2010 at Emily Carr Theatre (Room 301), Attila Richard Lukacs, Michael Morris and Scott Watson will sit down and discuss their own twenty year histories related to this body of work. Copies of the book will be available.