Joshua Liner Gallery is pleased to present American Bloom, a solo exhibition of new work from Californiabased artist, Robert Larson. This is the artist’s inaugural exhibition with the gallery, featuring new works comprised of discarded packages and remnants of commercial products on linen. The artist will be in attendance for the opening reception, on Thursday, January 15, 2015.

Robert Larson is a scavenger, a collector, a wanderer, an urban alchemist transforming the basest of materials-discarded trash-into works of tessellating mosaics, rich in color, tone, and pattern. For Larson, trash is a treasure he has been working with for almost twenty-five years, collecting and documenting his finds, all in various stages of weathering and decay. The palette for Larson’s work includes matchbooks, gum wrappers, lottery tickets, and discarded cigarette packages-items that are remnants of human consumption and an impression of the urban landscape.

At the core of Larson’s work is an interest in transformation. The title of the exhibition, American Bloom, bears two references-the first alluding to the popular American Spirit cigarette package. The second, “Bloom,” suggests a dynamic transition from minute and easily overlooked matter, like a bud or a seed, to something that is inescapable and glorious, like a flower. The artist explains, “In this show, I’m working with forgotten materials collected from the streets, sidewalks, empty lots and back alleys of America. All of my work takes an object’s original physical form, along with its inherent and topical meaning, and turns it into something entirely new.” Just as a seed germinates, these once monotonous packages undergo their own metamorphosis from everyday trash to works of art.

Weather, time, and chance play an intrinsic role in Larson’s work. The artist spends days scouring neighborhoods and cities, obsessively searching for discarded packaging to compose new patterned arrangements-a process that can take months, sometimes years to complete. Nature’s natural patina through sun bleaching, water damage, and decomposition on the cigarette boxes transforms these once identical, mass-produced objects into unique pieces. Working on numerous artworks simultaneously, Larson meticulously searches a catalogued library of collected materials; organized by their level of degradation, color scheme and even brand name.

A new work from the artist bearing the same title as the exhibition, American Bloom, is comprised entirely of discarded American Spirit cigarette packages. Hues of the brand’s classic yellow, splashes of menthol greens, earthy tones, and a fire orange from the ultra light packaging, form a vibrant floral pattern-a common motif in Larson’s work. Through cutting and re-assembling the found material into abstract work, Larson is able to consider the discarded objects’ past, simultaneously exploring new layers of visual and symbolic meaning.

Larson’s Traverse series is comprised entirely of discarded Marlboro cigarette packages. The repetition of Marlboro text in the work acknowledges the packages’ origins, and it’s pervasiveness in American culture. At the same time, this repetition represents the ubiquity of Marlboro, a quintessential American icon, and a product of a collective identity. The red zigzag pattern across the work creates the pattern of a tire track-the landscape stamped by man, an urban footprint. Larson further explains, “The zigzag motif speaks of my movement through the landscape, scouring sidewalks and gutters for discarded materials… always pushing deeper into the terrain and covering more ground.”

With increasing health warnings, environmental awareness, gentrification, and even the advent of new technologies like e-cigarettes and vaporizers, the remnants of human consumption will change over time. As a result of this change, Larson’s work will inevitably continue to evolve. Like the transformation of these urban ephemera into works of art with a new purpose, Larson’s practice will continue to reflect the environment we have created.

Robert Larson

Born 1968 in Santa Cruz, California, Robert Larson received a BA in 1986 from Cabrillo College, Aptos, California and an MA in 1989 from the California College of the Arts, Oakland California. In 2006, Larson was awarded the Rydell Visual Arts Fellowship from the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz, CA. Selected solo exhibitions include Robert Larson at VOLTA NY with CES Contemporary, New York, NY (2014), Inaugural Selection with CES Contemporary, Los Angeles, CA (2014), Unchanged at Whitewalls/ Shooting Gallery, San Francisco, CA (2013) and California Redemption at Tannery Arts Center, Santa Cruz, CA (2012). Selected group exhibitions include Summer Mixer at Joshua Liner Gallery, New York, NY (2014), Surface at CES Contemporary, Laguna Beach, CA (2013) and Legend Tripping at Masters and Pelavin, New York, NY (2013).