Lars Lerup: A Fat House for a Thin Man
17 June — 24 July 2016
Betts Project is pleased to present "A Fat House for a Thin Man", the first solo exhibition of Texas-based, Swedish designer and writer Lars Lerup in London.
The exhibition presents work from the 1970s to the end of the 1980s, spanning two key phases in his early career: first, the California years—influenced by his time in Sweden—, then the beginning of theAmerican years—influenced principally by Modernism, with considerable Post-Modern leanings—characterized by a preoccupation with spatial figures like cylinders, pyramids, blocks, prisms, and spheres.
Exhibition essay by fellow architect and draftsman Peter Wilson:
Lars Lerup is a journeyman, extra-territorial like Ulysses; zigzagging around looking for that Ithaca we call Architecture. Lerup's Odyssey (displacement) began in the Swedish navy, his inspirational companions in the belly of his wooden horse were John Cage and Merce Cunningham.
For Homer's Ulysses the field traversed was the western Mediterranean, for Joyce's it was Dublin. For Lerup, America (in the Baudrillardian sense) stands in for other continents of thought and wandering (his Love House was in a Paris back street).
As Ulysses was waylaid by Kirkê and Kalypso so has Lerup been held captive by various immortal nymph/witches (Gaeta). Or is it he with his votive houses that granted them immortality?
Ulysses was a trickster, master of mimicry and adaptive strategist, dodging danger (Cyclops) with guile. Lerup's guile has allowed him to ride waves of architectural theory and to circumvent the clichés and traps of architectural fashion. His writing and drawing chart their own epic path.
The temptation when looking at the dates of Lerup’s most characteristic works is to place him in the 1980's, that Indian Summer of the hand drawn, preceding the mega-paradigm shift of the Digital Tsunami that swept it all away. But not all - journeymen like Lerup are still there tinkering on 'small things', artifacts and furniture that may still have the potential to rescue the universe of architecture. In the meantime he has been active with a big brush, giving us a panorama of the infrastructural matrix that in America eclipsed architecture (field trumps signifier).
And what of his graphic technique, fine lines that speak of conceptual exactitude, dis-assembling conventions like handrails. Lerup's manner is Joycean, semantic conventions turned on their head. The atmosphere and poetics of Lerup's painterly smudge nods to Rossi and De Chirico but iterates a metaphysics of the new century. The chiaroscuro and sfumato that sometimes engulf his architectures do not erode their geometric essence, for him the physical always insists on its telematic presence - the pleasure of the textural, the tool of the table, the lean of the fireplace. Or as James Joyce put it - 'I mind the gush of the mon like Balybok manure on a trade winds day....Hold hard. There's three other corners to our isle's cork float'.
- Peter Wilson, April 2016
LARS LERUP, designer and writer, is a Professor of Architecture at RSA.
His work focuses on the intersection of nature and culture in the contemporary American metropolis, and on Houston in particular.
«Now, I occupy the margins between architecture, design and art—an enigmatic position that I prefer to any one more precise. My work is always produced in a certain frenzy, using any material at hand. Although often done while writing about the same subject, I never see the work as an illustration of the text but as an independent operation. My drawings are always connected to a project, be it a design project or a text».
His art and design work including drawings, paintings, architectural projects have been shown in individual exhibits at William Aronowitch Gallery, Stockholm, 1965, Philippe Bonnafont, San Francisco, 1976-1980, Berkeley Art Museum, 1980, and PS1 in New York, 1980 and at Jamileh Weber, Zuerich, 1985. And in group-shows in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1984, AEDES Gallery in Berlin, 1985.
Aside from individual collectors, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Canadian Center for Architecture has acquired collections of drawings, models and furniture.
Lars Lerup is the Harry K. and Albert K. Smith Professor of Architecture and the Dean Emeritus at Rice School of Architecture, Houston Texas and Professor Emeritus of University of California at Berkeley. He was awarded Doctor honoris causa in technology by Lund University, Sweden in 2001. He holds degrees in engineering (Sweden), architecture (UC Berkeley) and urban design (GSD, Harvard). He was the Harold W Brunner Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome 2009-2010.
Lerup has written several books: Villa Prima Facie 1976, Building the Unfinished 1977 (German 1983), Planned Assaults 1987 (Chinese 2002), After the City 2000 (Italian 2016), One Million Acres and No Zoning 2010. The Life and Death of Objects 2017 and The Jungle & The City: and other stories 2017.