Anderson Ranch Summer Series: Tony Lewis
This event was recorded on July 7, 2022 at Anderson Ranch Art Center as part of the Artist Summer Series, in partnership with Aspen Public Radio.
Tony Lewis was born in 1986 in Los Angeles and currently lives and works in Chicago.
In an ever-expanding engagement with drawing, Lewis harnesses the medium of graphite powder to confront such social and political topics as race, power, communication and labor.
The material provides a literal and conceptual foundation for the artist's work, as it is stretched, smudged, rubbed, spliced and folded across a variety of handmade and found surfaces.
Graphite powder is an inherently unruly medium, a substance that threatens to wander.
Lewis nurtures this dispersal, allowing for the powder to build into a ubiquitous state that settles upon and indiscriminately marks paper surfaces; the graphite-slick studio floor becomes a "tool the same way a pencil is a tool."
Early in his practice, Lewis developed a series of site-specific floor drawings that sought to further illuminate this relationship of his work with his chosen medium and the primary function of his graphite-covered floors.
Lewis' move from the floor to the wall was prompted by the discovery of the pocket-sized bestseller "Life's Little Instruction Book" (1991), a collection of maxims written by H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Lewis was initially enthralled by the book as an artifact of conventional American wisdom, a code of ethics that promotes a certain blind regard for authority and makes loaded assumptions of its readership based on gender, class and race.
Lewis began reproducing pages from the book as small drawings, soon expanding the series into large-scale works that would span entire walls.
Rendered in black screws threaded with graphite-soaked rubber bands, these labor-intensive wall drawings expose the covert authoritarianism and aggression of American culture and society.
In his latest series, what he calls a "steppingstone" to poetry, Lewis collages together altered cells from the beloved comic "Calvin and Hobbes."
In a process of erasing, editing and reassembling words from their source, Lewis continues to push the boundaries of drawing and expand upon the use of another medium central to his practice, the "material" of language.
His work is held in notable permanent collections, including Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York; Dallas Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.; The Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago; The Drawing Institute at The Menil Collection in Houston; Museum of Modern Art in New York City; and The Studio Museum in Harlem in New York City.