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Sing Plunder, Think Gentle Damage, Maintain Tomorrow, Et al.

Tony Lewis

11.10.2021 | 17.11.2021
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MASSIMODECARLO is pleased to present “Sing Plunder, Think Gentle Damage, Maintain Tomorrow, Et Al.” premiering new artworks by the Chicago-based artist Tony Lewis (Los Angeles, USA, 1986). For this exhibition, the artist is presenting a new body of eleven new drawings.

Tony Lewis’ practice focuses on the convergence of semiotics, abstraction and drawing: graphite pencil and paper are the mediums the artist uses to trace and create linguistic narratives and reflections on gestural expression. Lewis uses a dynamic shorthand gesture to merge selected text fragments and words with drawing that stratifies the page with a mysterious code as a sort of meaningful and textured map. These text drawings are a journey through the basic roots levels of drawing involving shape, line, color, language and getting to a place where all those things can happen at once. The gestural lines appear as abstract mark-making to those unable to read stenographic script. However, each word in this series delineates a message about race, power, and communication, often referencing historical facts or situations. In dismantling language and undermining its authority, Lewis exposes the inequities and inadequacy of existing linguistic and power structures.

These works are made with materials which the artist has mastered with years of experimental and intense use, such as the pencil, graphite, rubber cement, and paper. The series is built over days or weeks, layering stages of creation and intervention.

The drawing “Tomorrow” exemplifies Lewis' creative process. It has explicit and opaque meanings, since the word at once can trigger universal feelings of the perpetual unknown - something always just out of reach, as well as elicit specific feelings of hope or fear in relation to the future.

“Totally” exemplifies the artist’s reflection upon the concept of freedom of disjunctive language providing that formal power within a smaller drawing.

“Sing” and “Think” present the artist’s signature glyph alphabet, influenced by his fascination for stenography. Each drawing starts with a graphite symbol which is the foundation of his biomorphic compositions.

The exhibition is accompanied by some exclusive content, including a selection of words by the artist, to be found on our Instagram account @massimodecarlogallery

The Artist

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Tony Lewis

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

Tony Lewis Portrait 3 m7 In0y