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“Holes,” latex, coffee grounds, dirt and pencil on burned paper

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“Writing,” charcoal, pencil, coffee, spray paint and pigmented bacon fat on paper

Not A Neutral Experience

Dallas artist Stephen Lapthisophon’s Coffee, Seasonal Fruit, Root Vegetables and Selected Poems opens at the Dallas Museum of art this month, exploring the lines between daily life and art.

From Oct. 27 through March 30, the DMA’s Hoffman Galleries will be transformed into a window on the artistic soul of Stephen Lapthisophon. Coffee, Seasonal Fruit, Root Vegetables and Selected Poems is comprised of more than 20 works on paper, installations, tableaux and on site mimicry of the artist’s Oak Cliff studio. The show is the DMA’s 56th iteration of its Concentrations series, which presents project exhibitions by international emerging artists; the series dates back to 1981. Pulling elements of everyday life into his art, Lapthisophon utilizes pigmented bacon fat, coffee grounds, egg shells, ladders, extension cords and whatever else, along with more traditional materials. “It’s not going to be a neutral experience,” the artist promises with a laugh. “Some works will be done on-site in the space and to the space, including some wall painting. … I’m interested in expressions of everyday-ness, and really simple things. And I’m interested in the artists of the Arte Povera movement. … I like things that are rough and coarse—humble, modest materials. I like altering environments—shifting, playing with viewers’ expectations.”

The Houston native, currently a senior lecturer in art at UTA, has been on the local art scene since 2003, when Conduit Gallery hosted an exhibition; his most recent Conduit show, Sphere, closes Oct. 5. Nearly 20 years ago, Lapthisophon became legally blind, his vision damaged by an optic nerve disease. “I know that having had significant vision loss certainly has to have affected the work,” he says, “but a lot of it’s been the same before and after. The installations I did before 1994 were the same kind of thing; I did a lot of wall paintings and drawings that got painted out, so I think my interest in the permanent and ephemeral nature of things was really there for a long time. I’ve been having a lot of the same elements and the same kind of openness and looseness of process and ambiguity and finish.”

Lapthisophon’s range of influences is somewhat singular—references to iconoclasts like Marx, Lenin and Brecht occasionally populate his work, and Thelonious Monk, the Situationists, Merce Cunningham and John Cage have also inspired his oeuvre. “There’s something there about somebody who wants to break down barriers,” he surmises. “Cage, Cunningham, Monk, a lot of Marxist theory, beyond the economic stuff, is about breaking down hierarchies. And the Situationists were very much championing life in the street—what we do in the street; just seeing what life is like, and admiring everyday struggle. I want to call attention to the simple things that we encounter; the everyday struggle of things. I approached the DMA show like, ‘I have this venue, this audience, this opportunity—and I can say the real thing; say what’s really there to be said, and just take a chance with it.’”

Coffee, Seasonal Fruit, Root Vegetables and Selected Poems, Oct. 27-March 30, 2014, dallasmuseumofart.stephenlapthisophon.com