Collateral Culture: New Tile Works by Leslie Lyons & J.B. Wilson
RARE is pleased to introduce Collateral Culture, Leslie Lyons and J.B. Wilson’s first solo exhibition at the gallery. The artists align themselves with curious aspects of cultural antiquity to present two types of contemporary tile installations that comment on humanity’s decadent tendencies as well as its quest for purity.
The Unswept Floors series is an investigation of current material culture reflecting back on an ancient Roman home decorating trend of commissioning mosaics of images of fallen food scraps from extravagant dinner parties. This practice began with the importation of exotic foods, continued with the means to serve them to a large number of guests, and then moved further on with the commissioning of artwork depicting the detritus of these feasts. The Greek artist Heraclitus is credited with the 2nd century BC “Unswept Floor” mosaic at the Vatican Museums that was recovered from a villa on the Aventine Hill outside Rome.
Lyons and Wilson appropriate US currency, spent gun shell casings and, in direct homage, various foods to create floor, wall, and ceiling porcelain tile installations, utilizing the modern process of sublimation (a combination of heat and pressure) to embed photographic images into tile. They own a machine press to accomplish this work by hand, a practice that was celebrated with the inclusion of BANK (images of $100 & $100,000 US bank notes) in PRESS: Artist and Machine, a group show at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft that also included works by William Blake, William Morris, and David Shapiro.
In the Tabula Rasa series, the artists shift the paradigm from decadence to humanity stripped of the trappings of position and indulgence by presenting full-size tile works of humans in a purification moment with water. If the material culture denoted by Unswept Floors explores the ego-driven manifestation of our identity, then Tabula Rasa offers a kind of redemption. The Greek philosopher Thales is invoked in these works for his belief that water is the originating principle of nature, thereby moving humanity away from mythological explanations of nature and change toward a more scientific understanding of self and the soul.
For Lyons and Wilson, however, the physicality of the works in Collateral Culture is more intervention than statement as they are intended to be part of the interior spaces in which they are experienced. The Unswept Floors series offers actual environments upon or across which one moves and interacts, while the works in Tabula Rasa both engage and confront the viewer in private moments of contemplation.
Leslie Lyons’ aesthetic explores identity and social behavior in literature, pop music, and culturally experiential data through personal as well as public engagement projects. She has exhibited with the Art Directors Club and Dacia Gallery in New York, and will be participating in AFTER THE MOMENT: Reflections on Robert Mapplethorpe opening this November at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. J.B. Wilson is a post-media contemporary artist whose practice is distinguished by the use of non-traditional materials and processes in his efforts to challenge their constraining parameters. He most recently exhibited at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn. Lyons and Wilson’s exhibition at RARE marks their joint debut in New York. They were commissioned in 2015 to create an installation of BANK for 21c Museum Hotels’ new property in Durham, North Carolina.