April 17 2002
by Mario Naves
A Texas Treasure Hunt: Letscher’s Stunning Chelsea Debut
As if to prove that the most exciting contemporary art is made by the least usual of
suspects, here comes Lance Letscher from Austin, Tex. Mr. Letscher, who is
having his first solo New York exhibition at the Howard Scott Gallery, is unusual
not just in terms of his geography, but also in his aesthetic. Uninterested in fashion,
resistant to pomp and constitutionally incapable of the rote or superficial, he’s
something we don’t encounter too often: an artist of substance, grit and purpose.
Mr. Letscher makes abstract collages from found objects, yet is particular enough
about the objects he finds that that classification is all but beside the point.
Favoring materials that have the patina of history and handling, Mr. Letscher
shapes his art with old ledgers, discarded diaries, antiquarian books and recipes for
Grandma’s Old Fashioned Molasses Nut Squares. While enamored of these items,
the artist exhibits no compunction in slicing and dicing them for the greater
good—that good being an art permeated with memory, encompassing in outlook
and indebted to the land. His pieces bring to mind the notations of an amateur
astronomer or the shimmer of the setting sun.
Mr. Letscher stops us in our tracks; once there, we don’t want to leave. As an
artist, he’s as nuanced as Anne Ryan, as delicate as Joseph Cornell and as pure—in
his own impure way—as Sol Lewitt. But the artist Mr. Letscher resembles most is
William Blake: He, too, strives for unquenchable metaphysical sustenance. In the
end, however, I prefer Mr. Letscher. His pictures are a lot more pliable than
Blake’s—a lot less loony, too. In fact, the sober tone of Mr. Letscher’s reveries
may be an indicator of the lonely fate a visionary suffers in an age as tech-happy as
our own. Then again, it could just mean that he’s a laconic type from Texas.
Whatever the case, this is one stunning debut. Lance Letscher: Someone’s
Life/Collages and Drawings is at Howard Scott Gallery, 529 West 20th Street,
seventh floor, until April 27.