Art Lies, Volume 57, Spring 2008 Page: 104
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L. Stephen Lapthisophon, Bootsy, 1980; ink and watercolor on paper;
23 x 35 inches
R. 3B, 2007; latex, ink, gold paint, felt, newsprint on paper; 30 x 22 inches
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Annabel Daou and Stephen Lapthisophon
Conduit Gallery's decision to simultaneously exhibit solo exhibitions by
Annabel Daou and Stephen Lapthisophon was smart. The concerns and
personalities of these two artists, as revealed by the work, are substan-
tially different-Daou is flippant and irreverent; Lapthisophon is earnest
and philosophical. But both artists are sign makers, merging words and
symbols with drawing and painting, and both artists are obsessive.
Daou's installation Sex & Politics includes 1-96 Installments: a series of
96 drawings, each about 7 inches square, hung on the wall with balanced
randomness. They have the intimacy of pages extracted from a book. On
a few of these panels are exquisite pen and ink drawings evocative of
sketches from an old master's notebook. But the primary content of each
piece is excruciatingly tiny handwritten script that reads like a torrential
stream of consciousness, almost always filling the page. Stepping back and
looking across the gallery staggers the mind, realizing the sweatshop effort
required to pull off this work. One has to fight the notion that it is a fool's
errand to wade into all of this, but the work is seductive in spite of itself.
On one panel, an ink sketch depicting a freshly dug grave with a casket
set to the side sits in the foreground, with a cathedral in the distance. There
are several staccato notations: "aforementioned, goes to extraordinary
heights, bdsm, of death, following." Hung next to this panel is a companion
piece of all text that begins, "The Oxford Book of Death." There are other
non sequitur strings of words: "And finally Giant Cyclops bdsm sex you want
more information about the quality of care a hospital provides to patients
who are dying"; "There's Alice the aforementioned genius punk who
understands corporate greed and imperialist mayhem better than most
teenagers understand the Back Street Boys." On a larger drawing, Daou
has written long lines of Web addresses. Viewed from a few steps back, the
lines bend gently over each other, much like ripples in a sand dune.
While there are many references to sex (mostly over-the-top website
stuff), that aspect of the work is at odds with an overall soft, handmade
quality. This is true as well of political content. The exhibition's title, Sex &
Politics, is paradoxical to the feeling one gets standing in the gallery. The
presence of the artist's hand is palpable and personal, making the work
inviting and idiosyncratic in the extreme. There is no defensive shield of
moral righteousness nor heartless, flawless logic-two qualities generally
in abundance in artistic gestures regarding sex and politics. On the con-
trary, Daou's drawings are mesmerizing and in time can leave your mind
blank, just like sex.
In his solo show Writing Art Cinema, Stephen Lapthisophon's paintings
are expressive, raw and also make generous use of language. This kind
of poetic sign-making lives in a tradition that includes Jasper Johns, Ed
Ruscha, Kurt Schwitters and Cy Twombly. Done well, this kind of artmak-
ing communicates plainly while remaining enigmatic and inscrutable. Our
brains are sent to the hinterlands of linguistic understanding, where estab-
lished meaning is suspect. Letters and words start to resemble the statues
on Easter Island.
Lapthisophon's body of work also includes some wonderfully expres-
sive writing, as well as the dense, abstract, would-be philosophy featured
in the exhibition catalogue. In an essay entitled "Psychology, Phrenology,
and Painting," he begins by quoting the German philosopher Georg
Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel as interpreted by Jean-Luc Nancy: if you are look-
ing to climb the steep cliffs of language, start here. Reading philosophy
104 ART LIES
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Staley, Tim & Gupta, Anjali. Art Lies, Volume 57, Spring 2008, periodical, 2008; Houston, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth228022/m1/106/?q=annabel%20daou: accessed March 8, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; .