In the work of New York based artist Charles Lutz, he mines the imagery and data from sources diverse as mass media and advertising to ephemera from the world of contemporary art and auctions, exploring the human experience and our value structures full spectrum. Lutz has a keen understanding of the complexity of the appropriated image in art, and has created a unique signature that at times replicates and references others directly yet remains totally and unequivocally his own. Through his work he taps into the American psyche, one which has recently been dominated by an underlying cynicism, financial uncertainty, and dejection, while at the same time has been experiencing an unprecedented escalation in technology and communication. In this new series of work shown at IMPULSE as a precursor to his first major solo show in New York at C24 Gallery, Lutz examines the human condition in the greater society, looking at our relationship with and dependence on monetization. Lutz turns to the abstraction and transience of values both monetarily and morally and it’s effect on both the American and global psyche.
Lutz’s investigation into value structures of the American identity through paintings and sculptures, each stemming from a relationship to the American experience and its abstraction of values. The first group of paintings are constructed from stretched canvas and linen bags once used for transporting currency. They are reminiscent of Robert Rauschenberg’s cardboard construction works from the early 70’s, with their varied and tactile nature pointing to their origin of service now frozen. The currency bags have been cut, defying their labeling in some cases and then stretched, negating their intended purpose while further exploring the depth of their former contents. At times, the transfer staining of the green printed U.S. currency is visible on the raw material in addition to the ring marks formed by rubbing coins, further blurring the works direct proximity to monetization.
Another group of paintings based on images of gold bars from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York are simply titled Gold (commodity paintings) slyly hinting to the works value as a commodity in the art world while playing with the idea of alchemy and false value, having only a micron thin veil of actual 23KT gold, while mimicking an image of piles of the rare commodity.
Dye Pack, is an oil painting of a finely rendered image of an exploded dye pack (currency deliberately rigged to explode red dye on someone who commits a bank robbery). It sits on a pebbly ground, surrounded by an emptiness that forces the viewer to contemplate the path that led the currency there and where it will go next, now that it has been rendered useless, an empty vessel of its former self, an abstraction of monetization.
In the series of Portraits of Gentlemen the artist looks at the 1 x 1.5 inch portraits from the Wall Street Journal as a point of departure. The portraits are layered and then dissected, creating the “every-man” portrait of the financial and political sectors, an act of cohesion and homogenization through abstraction.
In Flag and Flag II, the beauty of each object is in their captured manifestations of history, being in states of distress and now static in new states of perfection. The torn and frayed American flags, now frozen in solid state, coated in matte black rubber force the viewer to contemplate where we’ve been as a culture and where we are going. Lutz continues to mine our collective history revealing a cold yet intimately personal reflection of the American consciousness through a dialogue with the ready-made, exploring and exploiting both its aesthetic and emotional transcendence.
Charles Lutz was born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1982. He graduated with a BFA in Painting and Art History from the Pratt Institute in 2004. His work has been included in numerous exhibitions including: the 2004 Terminal 5 show, New York; 2007 Denial & Acceptance, PEP Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; 2010 Charts, Price Lists, Corrections, and Other Relevant Statements, Five Myles Gallery, and others.