Walking, gathering and gleaning are at the core of Robert Larson’s peripatetic explorations in the urban landscape. Traversing blighted terrain, Larson acquires the most mundane, discarded and forgotten materials via time-intensive scavenging in neighborhoods littered with commercial detritus. The resulting accumulations of post-consumer packaging records myriad human activities—a telling mix of pleasures, habits and addictions, including the artist’s own obsessive collecting and appropriating. These solitary, meditative walks inform Larson’s inquiry in the studio, providing both the medium and subject for his contemplative patterned abstractions about the world in which we live.
Robert’s work with cigarette packaging is driven by his interest in the ephemeral nature of discarded items, as well as the symbolic portent of branded cultural artifacts. While it could be argued that the cigarette is the ultimate temporal object, smoking tobacco has always been an evolving ritual and commodity since it was first introduced by Native Americans to the European Colonists. Its presence and significance in our society continues to change and indeed the cigarette packages themselves are physically in flux. Once identical and uniform surfaces fade and abrade with exposure to the elements—turning them from homogeneity into infinite variety. The discarded packaging poignantly documents this collision of man and nature, and inadvertently creates a dynamic palette of weathered hues, tones and textures.
Chance, happenstance and the autonomous mark are visually and philosophically rich aspects in the life trajectory of these objects. Interestingly, these qualities are countered by the systematic order of processing that Larson employs in the studio. Items are sorted, graded and dissected into facets of graphic and tonal visual information, which are in turn carefully organized into gridded compositions—transmuted from universally recognizable product packaging into non-objective abstraction. Robert Larson brings together the mass-produced and the laboriously hand-made, in transformative visual works that examine the nuanced relationships between nature, the urban landscape, consumerism and cultural identity.