A review of “The Persistence of Invention” exhibition
Mechanical devices are cold and far too artificial to many people, or extremely, described as the opposite of the nature. While in Ellen Lanyon’s paints, those heartless tools also have variable faces, just like the living things.
Ellen Lanyon’s exhibition, “The persistence of Invention” is displayed in DePaul Art Museum. The little exhibition hall is small but comfortable, where people can feel free to enjoy her works. The white walls emphasis how colorful the paints are. According to her profile in the exhibition, by the mid-1960s she had developed a sensitivity to the solvents in oil paint and turned to acrylics, most of the paints in exhibition are colorful acrylic on canvas.
Ellen’s paints have strongly personal style and like books, audiences should try to read them, not just look at them. Her paint filled with lots of elements including living things, scenery and the main characters – mechanical device.
Every painting of Ellen’s has a central of tools or some supplies. Like dominos in “Dragon and Dominos”, soapbox in “Eucalol”, some of those supplies are tools in her workshop, Ellen had experience worked in the drafting department of a foundry during the World War 2, some models are the little goods she found in flea market.
Thanks to the experience working with mechanical devices, Ellen is familiar with those tools and has different angle to find the beauty behind the cold artificial things. In “Hollman – Mount Joy”, Ellen overlapped the image of some fishing-scroll-like-device and a shadow of a huddle up crocodile, the shape of two images are almost accordance. Ellen did a lot of try in this overlap concept in her works, including cricket and some devices, nautilus and some drawing tools. Those paints give audiences a new vision of coincides between human-made stuffs and the original shape in nature.
Ellen’s paints are the “portraits” of mechanical devices, the paintings are center with these artificial things and she keep the balance between the human-made stuffs and natural things, combined all the elements into a harmony. And the visual harmony shows not only the aesthetic part of the devices also the cruel meaning of tension relationship between nature and culture.
In “Trophie”, one of her graphite paints, Ellen put crocodile and crocodile purse on the top of some measuring device, and the shape of the combination just looks like a trophy. She also draw a high-heels and crocodile bags in shallower graphite lines behind the trophy, all the crocodile-made goods have clear crocodile face on them, the meaning of trophy is ironic and cruel.
There’re some features in the exhibition, Ellen’s clip is one of them. In the side room of the exhibition, there has a LED television’s play Ellen’s works’ video and her narration in a continue loop. People can hear her voice since they come into the main exhibition hall. She’s talking about her thought and what mechanical means to her, and this is kind of helpful for those trying to comprehend the meaning behind Ellen’s inspiration.
And close to the television is a display case, inside are Ellen’s collections, from crocodile purse to camera, the prototypes in the real life. Every model is delicate and has their aesthetic feeling, and easy for audiences understand Ellen’s works and her concept, further.
Ellen Lanyon’s exhibition “The Persistence of invention” is displayed in DePaul Art Museum, 935 w Fullerton Ave, Chicago, during September 14to November 18, the admission is free.
For the further information of the exhibition, go to depaul.edu/museum or call 773.325.7506.