The work of Stephen Lapthisophon embraces the mistake, the accidental, and the unexpected as they relate to process, mark making, and memory. In his installations and collaged works on paper, he rejects ideas of high polish and refined craftsmanship in favor of humble materials, the experiences of daily life, and a chaotic, de-skilled aesthetic that is open to chance. His installations appear cluttered, with their unruly extension cords and found objects that intentionally disrupt space, making it difficult or uncomfortable for viewers to maneuver; however, despite the haphazard appearance of his work, there are no superfluous elements. These objects, much like the ubiquitous text throughout Lapthisophon’s work, are carefully selected for their datedness, and they function as a form of quotation, pointing to past moments or literary or philosophical references. Issues of accessibility and meaning are equally contested in Lapthisophon’s densely layered works, blurring the lines between art and the everyday.
Lapthisophon currently lives and works in Dallas, but he spent his formative years growing up in Houston. He moved to Austin for his BFA, and then on to Chicago, where he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received his MFA in 1979. After further study at Northwestern University in comparative literature and theory, Lapthisophon exhibited widely, making a name for himself in Chicago over the next thirty years. He first visited Dallas in 2002 to take part in an artist residency at South Side on Lamar, and moved here permanently in 2007. Since 2008, he has held a senior lecturer position in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he has been an influential mentor to an emerging generation of North Texas artists.
For his current installation at the Dallas Museum of Art, the artist’s first U.S. solo museum exhibition, Lapthisophon has created a space reminiscent of his studio, in which walls obscure the space and appear layered, similar to his collage technique. While several works are framed, much of the work in the exhibition is intentionally left bare or open to the elements, simply being pinned to the walls. The walls have been left unfinished, with their wooden beams and support structures exposed. In one room, the walls do not extend to the ceiling, allowing for an airiness that extends beyond the exhibition space and is indicative of the artist’s process: art cannot be separated from daily life—it must be left open to influences from within and without. This openness is readily apparent in the artist’s choice of materials, which is as likely to include house paint as it is ingredients from the pantry.
Brochure produced for the exhibiton Concentrations 56: Stephen Lapthisophon—coffee, seasonal fruit, root vegetables, and "Selected Poems." on view at the Dallas Museum of Art October 27, 2013–March 30, 2014