Thomas Lawson is editor-in-chief of East of Borneo, and an artist, educator, and writer. His essays have appeared in such journals as Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art, frieze and October, as well as numerous exhibition catalogues. From 1979 until 1992 he, along with writer Susan Morgan, published and edited REALLIFE Magazine, an irregular publication by and about younger artists interested in the relationship between art and life. From 2002 until 2009 he was US editor of Afterall, an international art journal then co-published by Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, London, and the Art School at the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles. A book of his selected writings, Mining for Gold, was published by JRP-Ringier, Zurich in 2004, and an anthology of work from REALLIFE Magazine was published by Primary Information, New York, in 2007.
Remembering John Baldessari by Thomas Lawson
John Baldessari at the opening of his exhibition at Molly Barnes Gallery in Los Angeles, 1968. Photo by Phillip T. Jones and courtesy of Baldessari Estate. In the days following John Baldessari’s death in early January this year, I dug into my archives looking for something to re-post on…
Artists at Work: Fiona Connor by Thomas Lawson
Artist Fiona Connor ran Laurel Doody, an experimental exhibition space, out of her apartment-studio on Cloverdale Avenue from April 2015 to 2016. This interview, in which Thomas Lawson and Connor discuss the Laurel Doody project, was conducted in another Silver Lake apartment in early September 2016.
Rhapsody in Pink: Stephen Prina Paints by Thomas Lawson
Artists and writers carry ideas around with them all day. These half-formed thoughts and random pieces of information jostle against each other, mostly making no sense. This is the quandary of the creative mind, full of inspiration but staring at a blank page, into an empty room. Then a pathway appears, an opening suggests itself. I suspect that Stephen Prina carries around more ideas than most, ideas about art and architecture and music and the relationship between high culture and pop, and a lot else besides.
Second Life: 4 Taxis Magazine by Thomas Lawson
Magazine of the international boondocks: In 1978, Bordeaux-based artists Michel Aphesboro and Danielle Colomine embarked on their on-going itinerant project 4 Taxis. Establishing temporary studios in different cities— from Berlin to Los Angeles—they’ve produced a nomadic publication that focuses on distinct places and a wide-ranging world of cultural activities.
Artists at Work: Liz Glynn by Thomas Lawson
I met with Liz Glynn on July 17 in her Chinatown studio to discuss the work she created for the “Made in LA” 2012 biennial at the Hammer Museum this summer. The three-part installation—with multilayered references to Egyptian pyramids, smuggling tunnels into Gaza, and other spiritual and material trade routes, legitimate and not—continues an investigation of the intersection of antiquity and the present that began with her 2008 performance, The 24 Hour Roman Reconstruction Project, in which she invited people to help her build and then destroy a cardboard model of ancient Rome.
Every Picture Tells a Story Don’t It? by Thomas Lawson
Throughout the 1970s, William Leavitt composed a series of concisely staged works—16mm films, live performances, suites of photographs, and tableaux—that eliminated conventional narrative. Employing a narrow selection of isolated objects, gestures, and text, the bigger picture dramatically plays out through evocation, variation, and repetition.
Institutional Whitewash by Thomas Lawson
In downtown Los Angeles, the history of whitewashing controversial public murals is persistent and oddly echoic. After a half-finished mural by Italian street artist Blu was erased from MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary in 2010, Thomas Lawson revisited the troubled saga of América Tropical, David Alfaro Siqueiros's 1932 commission on Olvera Street.
A Story about Civil Disobedience and Landscape: Interview with Andrea Bowers by Thomas Lawson
This interview took place in the kitchen of Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects on a July day near the end of the run of Andrea Bowers’s exhibition "The Political Landscape." The show consisted of two large projects and a suite of small drawings. The first project, which one encountered upon entering the gallery, was No Olvidado (Not Forgotten), a mural-like drawing consisting of 23 ten-foot-high panels that listed the names of people who have died in the attempt to cross the Mexican-American border. The second was a single-channel video projection, The United States v. Tim DeChristopher, which examines DeChristopher’s disruption of a government auction of wilderness land for oil and gas exploration.
Not a Condition But a Process by Thomas Lawson
The phenomenon of contemporary art seems to be thriving, on a global scale unimaginable 20 years ago. But under that veneer of success there lurks a suspicion that something is missing, a vital connection to the everyday matters of life and death. It is very apparent that, despite widespread anger that we are waging war in Iraq, we are not reliving 1968, when artists sought to express their outrage at the war in Vietnam by claiming the role of conscience. That moment itself may be ridiculed as a period of neo-avant-gardism, a pale reflection of the genuine article, the heroic revulsion from the very idea of art expressed by the Dadaists in 1917. But the generation of '68 clearly sought to lay out new conditions for the meaning and reception of art. Boundaries were tested. The idea of relevance was given urgency. Today, in this seemingly a-historical moment in which nakedly expressed will is seen to trump process and persuasion, the practice of art seems strangely un-moored and artists randomly ransack the past for pieces of formal gold to entice what seems to be an ever expanding market.
The Journey West by Thomas Lawson
The launch of East of Borneo marks the convergence of two very distinct lines of thought. What is the nature, and the future, of art magazines? And how might we give form to the sprawling history of art in Los Angeles, a form that can be generative and productive, not merely descriptive or fancifully speculative? In retrospect I realize I have been mulling over these questions for decades, since first getting into the art magazine business with REALLIFE Magazine in 1978, and since first visiting Los Angeles in 1980.