Ted Larsen at PanAmerican Art Projects
Charles Dee Mitchell, The Dallas Morning News
Nov 02, 2008
Ted Larsen's sculptures appear to have drifted into PanAmerican Art Projects. Some have landed on the floor, others hang in midair. When they have made their way onto the walls, they could be at eye level, near the floor or just below the ceiling. Mr. Larsen scours salvage yards near his home in Santa Fe, N.M., for sheet metal from wrecked cars. He searches out cars old enough to have been painted with lead-based paints, and so the blues, oranges, beiges, yellows and reds in his work are chalky and subdued rather than metallic and shiny.
He flattens and cuts the metal into strips and triangles that he joins together with annealed wire to form what he refers to as "belts." Folding these belts back onto themselves produces the three dimensional shapes of the finished works. The triangular shapes have an aerodynamic quality suited to their often airborne presentation, whereas the blockier ones become either simple or
very elaborate geometric abstractions. In some pieces Mr. Larsen takes long strips of metal and crumples them into rough approximations of organic forms.
Attending this exhibition, "Hamster Wheel or Cold Comfort," is a bit like spending time in a salvage yard where your eye is constantly drawn to evocative shapes, surprising juxtapositions and engaging images.
Metal Sculptures’ low-key Wit, Charm, and Color
Edith Newhall, Philadelphia Inquirer
Dec 13, 2009
We’ve seen small, abstract sculptures constructed of found materials before—from Richard Tuttle’s thoughtfully lumpen ones to Bill Walton’s sublime, carefully crafted ones—and whose used parts from our polyglot American past give them an ineffable poignancy, like a song whose words we’ve forgotten. Ted Larsen’s recent metal sculptures and assemblages at Schmidt Dean Gallery bring a little something different to the table.
They’re the Johnny Mercer lyrics of this genre, you might say, born of a naturally generous low-key wit and charm that is often alien to the art world. Even when his forms are boxlike (and they frequently are), they don’t give a vibe of difficult, reserved, or restrained.
A good part of the allure of Larsen’s work comes from its colors and patinas. Larsen salvages his painted scrap metal from cars, buildings, and industrial equipment, cuts it into large sections on site, and then into smaller pieces in his studio. The evidence of the past lives of these materials is easy to detect in their painted, slightly distressed surfaces—some peeling here, cracking there, yellowing at the edges—and many of these scraps’ paint colors, such as a 1950s aqua, openly declare their automobile and refrigerator roots.
At the same time, Larsen’s sculptures and his two-dimensional assemblages, constructed from metal triangles of such vintage familiars as soft-yellow ochre, avocado green, and ivory white, transcend their ‘50s-to-‘70s car/kitchen associations and simultaneously hark back to Early American quilts and game boards and look forward to contemporary abstract painting.
The shapes and forms in his new pieces are diverse, but their common scale mitigates these differences. His quilt like, two-dimensional assemblages are the easiest, most immediately appealing works in his show, while his sculptures—such as Joined Box Structure or Delicate Wall Drawing Construction, which suggest contained continuums—mark a stretch and a risk.
A Geometric Trio: Shape-shifters at Marty Walker, Holly Johnson, and Conduit
D Magazine, Front Row, A Daily Review of Dallas Arts
By Peter Simek April 15th, 2011
Ted Larsen’s Past Is Prologue at Conduit more or less slapped us in the face – both in the show’s title and materials – with this intention of delving deep into the bowels of non-expressionist abstraction. Larsen’s work here possesses an appealing agedness, sometimes due to the fact that he is utilizing reclaimed metal materials, sometimes because his works are deliberately constructed to feel like they’ve been sitting on the wall of some forgotten gallery at MOMA for thirty years. An octagon resists symmetry, yet, basking in its off-yellow plainness, claims a certain presence on the wall. Look closely, and the joints of the metal rims that frame the plane don’t quite meet in every instance and screws are visible around the surface’s outer edges. There is a constructed-ness to this object, too oblique to be classified as Supremacist, but engaged in the same yearning for structural simplicity, material authenticity that the Kazimir Malevich hoped for in his paintings.
Larsen’s shapes don’t deviate too far from this simple formality, the work culminating in a series of twelve geometric drawings that are displayed as a series. My mind here drifted to the work of Amalia Nieto, who was included in the last year’s Amon Carter exhibition, Constructive Spirit, only Larson pulls apart the geometry, isolating each shape on a regular canvas arranged in a grid. Look, there’s Larson’s octagon. Another drawing is similar to a black and white wall sculpture nearby made of intersecting quadrangles. Alone on the plane of white paper, Larson’s oblong geometrics are most formally satisfying. They toy with our expectations for symmetry, volume, and uniformity, while skewing formality to achieve a particular individuality.
Santa Fe New Mexican
Art in Review, New Mexico Museum of Art exhibition "Case Studies from the Bureau of Contemporay Art
Douglas Fairfield, January 11. 2011
Larsen's Slap (2007) is a great little nonobjective construct made of found steel, Baltic Birch, vulcanized rubber, silicone, and hardware -- none of which you would know without reading the label. But that's neither here nor there. It's the complexity of the piece that keeps you shifting your vantage point to fully grasp which angle you like best. Looking like a sepia-colored Rubik's Cube pulled apart accordion style, Slap immediately engages your attention. It harks back to an era that saw the architectonics of a Malevich sculpture or something by Brancusi. Diminutive in scale, the piece -- including its wonderful cast shadow -- has an elegant and expressive craftsmanship that makes it very special.
Artists Pard Morrison and Ted Larsen Tackle Geometric Abstraction from Different Angles
Kyle McMillan, August 18, 2011
Larsen, whose work is on view at the Robischon Gallery, pays homage to classic minimalists such as Ellsworth Kelly in a group of constructed paintings, including "Angle of Approach," a pair of attached red and white angled polygons.
Much like Morrison, he employs enamel on steel, but he breaks from the crisp, unadorned look of classic geometric abstraction by "framing" these works with a banal aluminum molding that looks like edging for modular tables.
The use of industrial materials was an essential facet of minimalism, but Larsen pushes this idea in "Lean on Me," a 6-foot-tall riveted aluminum floor sculpture. Here, he seems to gently mock the pristine precision of Donald Judd and others with the piece's deliberately crude workmanship and rickety look.
He employs a similarly loose approach in the wonderfully titled steel wall sculpture "Soup Montage," an off-square, jumbled mass of perpendiculars that again makes light of geometric abstraction's expected exactitude.
In a branch of abstraction that has often taken itself extremely seriously, Larsen injects a welcome dose of whimsy.
Review of Ted Larsen's Waste Land at McMutrey Gallery
Todd Camplin, May 15, 2012
I have enjoyed encountering Ted Larsen’s work in a few group shows, but now I have the extreme
pleasure of experiencing a solo exhibition at McMurtrey Gallery. Larsen’s show titled “Waste Land,”
is a direct reference to his process of taking discarded objects and incorporating them into sculptures that make reference to the discipline of painting, minimalist painting, but it is clear these are constructed pieces. Larsen combines some of the best developments of Modernism to create a kind of Dada/Minimal hybrid. Larsen is continuing the conversation of high art/low art dichotomy by skillfully constructing discarded objects. The effect gives the look of traditional high art Modernism with the subversion of low art material. I’m reminded of Louise Nevelson and her constructions of found objects, but Larsen make his work fit in a tighter composition and I see more of a painter aesthetic than a sculptor. This is not to say Larsen isn’t interested in the 3 dimensional forms, because I have seen several of his investigations into sculpture, but somehow Larsen’s surface overshadows the object. Ted Larsen’s art celebrates the flaking paint and the process of decay. His work counteracts the practice of clean and finished works found in the minimalist tradition. Larsen has refined the ready-made with subtle treason and thankfully not with an overt Rauschenbergesque
shock and sloppy style.
When Painting is Sculpture and Visa Versa
Anne Tschida, January 11, 2013
“Being a painter who no longer paints leaves me open to many different paths” is the way Ted Larsen describes his sculptural process. And indeed his lovely metal works have a painterly feel as much as they do three-dimensional objects. For his latest series of works that make up “Gimcrack” at Pan American Art Projects, he has crafted mostly pre-painted, salvaged-steel scraps into sculptures – a choice of material that could lend itself to a literally heavy output, but these look far more delicate.
Taking the historical form and place of painting as a starting point, Larsen – who has shown often with Pan American and is based in Sante Fe – works with his sculptural canvases over a period of time: erasing, adding, amending. “I carefully consider the form of the object. It can take years to develop them, with many revisions. Often the form mandates the materials used and how they will be used. Everything has to be questioned: How should things be joined? What should be visible? What needs to be eliminated? The possibilities are endless.”
Denver Westword Arts
Harriet Alexander Art Advisory, www.harrietalexander.com
Harriet Alexander, March 7, 2013
Ted Larsen is an artist living and working in Sante Fe. He began his career as a landscape painter, but over time his work has evolved dramatically. These wall sculptures, seen here, are made of pre-painted salvage material, and are products of this change. But they are often mistaken for paintings (I did it). A pivotal moment for him was the bizarre, and difficult, experience of watching the television coverage of the horrific events of September 11, 2001; as if it was a simulated event uprooting our real world. Mr. Larsen’s visceral reaction as an artist was to leave his impressionistic landscapes and move toward the use of real, existing materials. His worked has evolved into these abstract sculptures that are pleasing in unity and have a certain elegance. He is making something beautiful out of what is left behind.
He has made these sculptures from salvage materials like old cars, farm equipment, and other industrial elements. He rough cuts on site and takes back to the studio in large sheets. From these materials he cuts, shapes, and reconfigures to create a careful patchwork of metal elements. Mr. Larsen has said he would like to “re-label the idea of ready-mades.” The term ready-made harks back to the term first coined in 1913 when French artist Marcel Duchamp put a bicycle wheel on a stool and called it art.
Marcel Duchamp was not interested in what he called “retinal art” – art that was only visual. By repositioning an everyday object, like the bicycle wheel, the object became art as designated by the artist. It was the first time in the history of art that the artist’s idea was more important than the final product. One hundred years later, Mr. Larsen has taken the idea of the ready-made in a different direction. He is using everyday objects – salvage material – but his hand is in the making of these sculptures where color, shape, and positioning create a unique and powerful work. His work can be seen in galleries across the United States, and at the McMurtrey Gallery here in Houston.
Robischon Fills Its Rooms Amid a Flurry of Summer Shows
Michael Paglia. August 8, 2013
The group show is Ted Larsen, Peter Millett and Don Voisine, which highlights three artists with individual takes on contemporary minimalism. The show is nearly a Larsen solo, with two-thirds of the exhibit given over to his intriguing works. The Santa Fe-based artist uses salvaged materials, sometimes appropriating their original colors, to create his work. In the masterful bas-relief "Structured Space, Happenstance and Whatever Makes You Feel Good," Larsen has arranged multicolored strips of salvaged steel to create a collapsed three-dimensional grid. He employs traditional approaches to perspective in laying out an elaborate geometric form that looks like an isometric drawing of a building. Much simpler is the floor piece "Bounce Back," which is painted yellow and has been made out of valley roll, a galvanized metal used in roof valleys to facilitate the run-off of rainwater. Larsen has cut the roll, reassembled it, and riveted the new shapes together, resulting in a work that combines the aloofness of classic modernism and a funky undercurrent, both in its gawky form and its casual craftsmanship.
Is Ted Larsen the lovechild of Constructivism and Max Earnst? God only knows—and maybe ARTnews, where you’d find a question like this as the lead-in for a not-so-nuanced look at Some Assembly Required, Ted Larsen’s recent exhibition of sculpture at David Richard Gallery. It’s a very strong show of spot-on assemblage sculpture whose visual whimsy and wry humor rely upon Larsen’s knack—that’s too ARTnews-y: gift—for harnessing good design to still better invention. The result is a series of small geometric metal-and-plywood, polychrome wall constructions of enormous visual appeal and seductive anecdote. The experience for the viewer is akin to perusing the short stories of Cheever or Chekhov.
Richard Tobin, September, 2013
At first glance the work is not imposing, and it’s certainly not intrusive. A typical piece is less than two feet in height, a linear wall-mounted assemblage of welded lengths of square-sided metal bars that run at right angles along x-y-z axes within some imaginary three-dimensional grid. For some pieces, the metal armature serves as support scaffold for a single slab or for stacks of contiguous laminate plywood rectilinear plaques—all plated with industrial-dye metal strips whose matte, chalky enamel surfaces of green, blue, cerulean, orange, ochre or tan suggest the polychrome remnants of some Rubiks cube cut into strips in some waste-salvage WALL-E world. But a closer look and a bit of reflection make apparent the visual appeal of each piece and a strength and subtlety that ground it. Here and There (2012) is both a visual and figurative gateway to the show. An irregular, seven-foot lattice of welded steel projects six feet from one gallery wall. Its widely spaced vertical bars proclaim a boundary yet invite passage, a kind of portal to the dozen wall pieces that bracket and define the gallery enclosure.
On the formal level, at least, you could make a persuasive case for the Constructivist aesthetic. Stripped of its utopian content, the Russian early modern theory espoused three principles in its art making: tektonika, whereby the constituent industrial materials invest the work with meaning; konstruktsiya, or “construction,” basically the assembling of the sculpture from various components (at the time, a revolutionary approach vis-?- vis traditional sculpture’s carving and modeling), and faktura, or the choice and handling of the materials. It is unlikely that Larsen explicitly subscribes to these principles but, whatever the artist’s approach, his sculpture does reflect their virtue of ensuring both structural integrity in the work and visual discourse with the viewer. Larsen’s pervasive use of polychrome salvage steel plating adds the “found-element” factor so effectively deployed in Duchamp and later Surrealist sculpture (with a nod to Picasso’s seminal use of the device in his projecting Cubist wall constructs), and applied with great effect here to establish chromatic texture and poetic tone for each piece.
For several pieces in the show (Linear Curve, Past Prediction, Random Pattern, Real Fantasy, and Whole Half) Larsen uses the welded steel bars simply as support for a single wall tableau, in the sense here of a projecting abstract panel with strongly narrative overtones. The panel of Past Prediction floats out from the wall like a mounted flat tv screen, a plywood high-relief divided horizontally into two wraparound zones of patina green and white plating and, attached to its surface, a vertical wooden frame that optically bends forward as it extends to the upper, green zone. In the similar tableau of Linear Curve, this play of perspective is elaborated in the jig-saw cube formed on the surface from polychrome triangles of salvage steel, and again is the foreshortened illusion of Missing Present.
This allusive quality is especially evident in those sculptures in which the support, or armature, function of the welded steel bars is elevated to visually embody the proffered conceit: (Loose Knot, Nearly Complete, One Choice, Personal Space, Soaring Down). It is equally apparent in the chiastic play between the virtually identical polychrome compositions of Orderly Confusion and Random Pattern, either one of whose motley Mondrian stack of enamel-plated plinths—luggage or books of varied hue—beguiles the viewer with its Edward Hopper palette and whispered tales of Cannery Row.
But apart from the visual wit and wordplay—or perhaps better, at the source of it—is Larsen’s formidable command of his medium. The wit and whimsy that pervade these sculptures are entirely a function of Larsen’s approach to facture—shapes and colors as visual grammar—and his underlying sense of design’s narrative force—as visual syntax. This openness to form and materials as visual language yields highly personal yet engaging work (whereas the Constructivist submission to an overriding utopian agenda often led to art as propaganda). His Never Again—a seemingly effortless amalgam of thin burgundy, ochre, and white plated rectangles stacked contiguously like accordions along a horizontal axis—is as enigmatic, random, and purposeful as a poem by William Carlos Williams: “so much depends/upon//a red wheel/ barrow//glazed with rain/water//beside the white/chickens.”
Westword Arts, Denver Edition
Conceptual Abstraction Runs Through Shows at Robischon and Vertigo
Michael Paglia, February 20, 2014
In the space behind the niche is work by New Mexico's Ted Larsen, whose pieces strike me as being conceptual deconstructions of various stripes of geometric abstraction. The resulting work really resonates with the Karolaks, as they share a vertiginous approach to compositions, with their unbalanced character making them seem as though they are about to collapse onto themselves. There are some marvelous wall pieces, like "Missing Present" — in which linear scrap-steel strips outline a dense arrangement of solid rectangles inside one another — and a charming take on the grid seen in "Baby Giant." And in "Here and There," Larsen has created a room-divider of sorts with a complex pattern of triangles and quadrangles in salvaged bar iron — the kind of material used to make railings.
May/June, 2016, V.10, N. 3
“A work needs only to be interesting,” wrote minimalist sculptor Donald Judd in “Specific Objects.” Judd’s seminal 1965 essay comes to mind at Ted Larsen’s exhibition “New Works,” on show at Nüart Gallery. The New Mexico artist grew up in South Haven, Michigan and Santa Fe, and spent years painting color studies of landscapes and buildings before switching to sculpture. He hammers out elegant geometric forms from the grittiest of materials: steel that is salvaged from junked cars. Larsen shapes these weathered bits of metal into patchwork patterns around substructures made from marine-grade plywood. In “New Works,” there are off-kilter cubes, simple wedges and ambiguous, undulating forms, all small enough to hold in your hands. They are mounted on the walls in a neat line, projecting out far enough to cast playful shadows beneath them.
At first, the works seem like a postminimalist subversion of Judd’s philosophy, with their diminutive scale and rough edges. They have a distinctly hand-hued quality that encourages up-close inspection. The yellow and white planes of Serial Killer #6 are covered in a Milky Way of rusty freckles. Back Front is mounted with its face to the wall and its posterior wooden artifice exposed, proving Larsen’s penchant for tidy joinery. Larsen is said to be friends with Richard Tuttle, the postminimalist artist who lives part-time in Abiquiú, New Mexico. Tuttle and Larsen seem complementary, with the former as a loud and experimental jokester, and the latter a subtle provocateur. View the
artwork from a few steps back, however, and dense details vanish in favor of purely minimal lines. A different set of associations emerges. Now the yellow-and-red stripes of jackel sing like a Daniel Buren painting. The skewed lines of checked echo minimalist forefather Kazimir Malevich, while the staggered blocks of stepped out recall Robert Morris. From this perspective, Larsen’s dialogue with minimalist history seems too polite to indicate true rebellion, which brings us back to Judd’s essay. “Specific Objects” was considered a rallying cry for Minimalism, but in recent years, scholars have argued that the piece has a murkier message. “Judd wrote of a new kind of three-dimensional work that incorporated aspects of painting and sculpture but was neither,” wrote New York Times critic Roberta Smith in 2013. “He had in mind something much more robust and physically eccentric than Carl Andre’s plates or Sol LeWitt’s grids.” Larsen’s works seem like organic extensions of this ideology. They don’t aim for pure Minimalism, but through their singular presence, they playfully advance Judd’s famous musings, albeit in a wholly contemporary direction.
Flash Art Magazine, No. 331, February-March, 2017
Review of exhibition at Private View Gallery, Turin, Italy
It is the case that Ted Larsen, an American artist who made his debut solo exhibition in Europe at the PrivateView Gallery of Turin, was born in 1964, the same year as the famous text from Donald Judd, Specific Objects. The new works exhibited here, created especially for the gallery spaces, presenting the artist's research which springs precisely out of American minimalist art of those years. On display are a series of bas-reliefs, hybrids halfway between painting and sculpture, where Larsen comes away from the minimalist Dogma and retrieves a manual craft: each piece is in fact selected, cut and assembled according to the artist's own sensibility.
Reusing materials from old waste, such as sheet metal from cars and other materials, Larsen creates small paintings of composite geometries in which simple forms become complex agglutinations of polygons that expand and occupying space with their own visual projection and material footprint.
Arranged in the environment, the works create a measured path and rhythmically punctuated by projecting volumes from the walls; among them are chromatic references that guide the observer from one work to another. Color is important and Larsen devotes particular attention to it; using it, at times, to build a visual route, both inside the work and throughout the installation; others works recall the visual sensations of memory: the dull colors of old cars and formica dinner tables of Americans who, with the marks of their use, carrying the ideas and universal references of the past.