I Believe History Is a Force
Massimo De Carlo Gallery London is proud to present I Believe History Is a Force, the first solo show in London by the American artist Tony Lewis.
Lewis’s practice articulates itself as a series of drawings that translate and question via graphite on paper the underlying connections between the word and the image, the symbol and the sound, the artist and his identity. The inspiration for his drawings is often sought in the world of text, from books to comics, which the artist has eagerly consumed since being a child. Childhood appears in fact to be a strong presence in the bodies of work exhibited in I Believe History Is a Force: there is a playful element of blurred, though never naïve, reminiscence of early days that each of us can associate with.
In I Believe History is a Force the artist will introduce a group of new works. Located on the ground floor is the series entitled Oreo Group, as the famous chocolate and cream cookie sandwich, which are a subset of a larger group of text drawings. Oreo Group tackles with one of the key themes of his recent practice: that of converging the structures of language and it’s meaning with familiar materials, studio considerations, and the activity of incessant drawing. These works all begin with a statement based on pre-existing terms that Lewis wrote to declare the past, present, and future of the color line in the United States.
The exhibition also presents, in the lower floor of the gallery, a selection of new collages and works on paper, which aim to celebrate the artists personal experience of Calvin and Hobbes, the famous American comic by Bill Watterson, by introducing himself into the narrative he was not only passionate about as a child, but still is.
The title of the show I Believe History is a Force is a quote from one of these works, that can be found in the small drawing situated in the window space on the ground floor, here the fact that the character who is pronouncing the statement is blacked out will leave the viewer wondering if its Calvin, Hobbes or Tony Lewis himself making the statement.
On the same theme, but following a different direction, are the Empty Drawings: an aniconic representations of dialogues from The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes book. Tony Lewis here uses aniconism,the absence and avoidance of the imagery of God, as a tool to idolize Calvin and Hobbes without using their image: this is a reference to the public history of plagiarism of the comic and at the same time an attempt to provide introspection for the author’s work as the true representation of Calvin and Hobbes.
In his work Tony Lewis tackles with a range of subjects that vary from theories such as semiotics to popular culture, questioning through symbolism issues related to the word such as recognition and logic. I Believe History is a Force is an overview of Tony Lewis’s work: the three series on show illustrate how the artist is able to work on different themes, and depths, aesthetically and conceptually, leaving in the viewer a sense of mystery that the artist creates by shifting in and out of the narrative he creates.
Tony Lewis was born in 1986 in Los Angeles. He currently lives and works in Chicago.
Lewis’s practice focuses on the relationship between semiotics and language to confront social and political topics such as race, power, communication, and labour. Lewis creates drawings using graphite, pencil and paper, mediums the artist uses to trace and develop abstract narratives and reflections on the notion of the gestural. By pushing the boundaries of drawing and the possibilities of abstraction, he expands the use of the “material” of language. As expressed by Melissa Chiu, Director of Hirshhorn Museum: ‘Lewis has quickly established himself in the contemporary art world by forming a distinct visual vocabulary that integrates poetry and text with the properties of abstraction, and his monochromatic drawings pull from various visual and written sources, ranging from the personal to the political. Separating, rearranging, and erasing text, he shifts the way we move through language to open up new and unexpected readings.’
Lewis participated in the 2014 iteration of the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, NY and was the recipient of the 2017–2018 Ruth Ann and Nathan Perlmutter Artist-in-Residence Award at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA