Adam Lanman’s Structure-scapes by Emily L. Newman
2016 promises to be an exciting year for Adam Lanman. Not only is he showing new work at the Invited Artist Gallery in the Underground (pedestrian tunnels in downtown Oklahoma City) and participating in ArtNOW at Oklahoma Contemporary in the first few months of the year, but he also was selected for the prestigious Downtown OKC Artist Invitational. His success is undoubtedly predicated on his unique combination of socially engaged art with a focus on place. Lanman navigates dual roles as artist and architect. His background is certainly rooted in the latter, first receiving his Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma, and then his Master of Architecture at Cornell University. He has pursued a body of work that traverses both art and architecture. Of his artwork, he elaborates, saying: “My goal is to create an art based design practice that reclaims the territory of the marginalized areas of our built environment; to promote public participation by non-specialized labor and to create a built environment that is as much a playground as it is a public space.” While he works to encourage his viewers to reconsider their ideas about materiality and space, his projects are intended to spark emotion, often joy or happiness through their whimsical design and unique structures of interactivity. It is in this blend of creative, artistic moments and the artwork’s invasion into the viewer’s physical space that seems to exemplify the blend of art and architecture. His pieces may range in size, from the small intimate book to a larger assembly, but each are meant to work on a specifically human scale. His ongoing series, drawdels (a combination of the word drawing and model) literally combine an exploration of two-dimensional and three-dimensional space. Works like Bridges and Silos (both 2015) are made from Japanese fold books which unfold horizontally in Lanman’s hands and yet, have an important vertical element as the paper is cut into forms and embellished with collaged elements including wire and ink. Starting flat, the form builds upwards
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and outwards, emerging with intricate complex paper cuttings which develop an increasing energy as one progresses throughout the work, climaxing towards the center of the piece. The forms recede, and the entire work becomes still, returning to that of a notebook. In referring to these pieces as Memory Notebooks, Lanman acknowledges that the subject is often directly tied to fragments of his childhood life in various locations throughout the Midwest. Focusing on memorable structures like birdcages and silos, these works have a connection to farming communities and nature but also lack any specificity that weds the piece to a unique community or person. To fully examine them, they require careful study. One must bend down and change position, moving his or her body to see the hidden supports and detailed line work that are created within the tiny paper supports and drawings. Not content to work in just one or even a few mediums, Lanman enjoys the process, and he explains that he is “constantly evolving and adding to [his] vocabulary. This means a lot of learning from other people and a lot of mistakes.” It shouldn’t be a surprise that Lanman enjoys collaboration, as architecture is rooted in the necessity to be able to work with many different people of various backgrounds. At the Underground, he is showing with Cassie Stover in an exhibition titled impermanence, co-curated by romy owens and Jarica Walsh. Stover and Lanman are exploring the concept in relation to environment. Drawings will be displayed in sections on two long eighty-feet walls, but, in an unexpected twist, will be continually replaced with different drawings throughout the course of the exhibition. Recalling the ever-changing landscape of modern society, Lanman hopes that viewers consider the sociological, technological, and ecological changes that have taken place. In the changing of the drawings, new images replace older ones, recalling the passage of time and the nature of an urban development.
His project for the Downtown OKC Artist Invitation, Skyline : Timeline, ties together many of these issues. Placed in front of the Oklahoma City University School of Law, Lanman will be creating a series of fabric and metal towers. The colors of the forms correspond to land and building development in the downtown area, and will be placed so that they become part of the skyline itself when viewed from certain angles. The project will open in conjunction with the deadCENTER Film Festival, and will provide an educational view onto the expansion of the capitol city as well as distinctive combinations of colorful architectural forms. As Lanman’s career progresses and he continues to refine his ideas and his practice, his empowered take on socially conscious art and architecture is insightful. With so many opportunities to see his work in the first half of 2016, here’s hoping many of us get the chance to do so. Not to be missed, impermanence will open in March, and Lanman’s Skyline: Timeline is scheduled to open in June. For more news on Adam Lanman, see his websites: adamlanman.com and adamlanman.tumblr.com. n Emily L. Newman is presently Assistant Professor of Art History at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Specializing in contemporary art, gender studies, and popular culture, she earned her PhD from The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her book, The Lifetime Network: Essays on “Television for Women” in the 21st Century (co-edited with Emily Witsell), will be available in late Spring 2016. emilylnewman.com
Page 15 image: (top) Adam Lanman, Bridges / Birdcages / Silos. 2015, h10 x w8.125 x d54 inches, mixed media in Japanese fold moleskine notebooks