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CULTURE

Staring At Empty Pages

CULTURE

Staring At Empty Pages

Wes Lang's personal possessions in a new exhibit at Partners and Spade

by Karen Day
on 12 November 2010
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From Jesse James to Capone, the American outlaw has long held a place in the popular imagination. For a fresh take on on what it means to be a rebel, artist Wes Lang sheds his own unique light on how the archetype fits into the modern world. With works in MoMA's permanent collection and a host of international exhibitions under his weathered "Keep On Fuckin" leather belt, Lang's talent is as strong as his opinions on America's past and future. To take a closer look at the man behind the sentimentally subversive paintings and drawings, as Partners & Spade has done with their exhibit of Lang's personal objects, is to explore a version of today's masculinity that toes the line between sincerity and toughness.

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While overall Lang's possessions don't differ much from any backwoods badboy's—a silver dagger with a voluptuous naked lady handle, a middle finger statuette or a mounted roach collection—items like his rawhide packs of rolled up leather cigarettes show his meticulous dedication to any concept he creates.

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Citing Basquiat as a major influence, Lang's studious perfection also comes through in his highly-detailed, collage-like oil paintings and sketches. Montages of the kind of images typically airbrushed on the side of a Harley or its owner's jacket breathe new life into these subjects with their meaningfully irreverent statements next to each image.

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Covered in ink himself, fittingly much of Lang's work would make an ideal tattoo. Along with his friend, tattoist Scott Campbell, the two make a case for tattooing as a legitimate artform without sentimentalizing it. As part of the Partners & Spade show, called "Staring At Empty Pages," Lang will be on hand 20 November 2010 giving tattoos from a pre-drawn selection of custom flash art.

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While Lang's practice may seem simply beautiful or lighthearted on the surface, his work comes from deeply felt emotion. As Partners & Spade's Andrew Post explains, a close relationship with a former math teacher who recently passed away led to a sculptural homage in the show. The totemic piece consists of a briefcase that belonged to his teacher, a massive Grateful Dead fan, swathed in Dead stickers and friendship bracelets collected from the 250 shows he attended as well as an extensive collection of tapes he left to Lang.

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"Staring At Empty Pages" is on view through 6 December 2010 weekends only or by appointment through the week at the Partners & Spade studio.

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