Lawrence Gipe reconstitutes and reinterprets heroic images from between the world wars to create paintings that memorialize the false premise of man's triumph over nature-the empty promise of politics, science, and technology. In this, his fifth exhibition in New York, the 33-year-old, California-based artist has dropped the propaganda-like titles he formerly incorporated into his images. Without them we can see more fully what a masterful painter Gipe is, and how seamlessly he is able to unite his technique with his ideology.
The focus of the exhibition was the monumental "Documentary Painting," which, in four abutted panels, spanned a long gallery wall. It is a montage of images that segue smoothly from one to the next: the grinding wheels of a locomotive, the Trylon and Perisphere from the 1939 World's Fair, a high-speed Russian train, sculpture celebrating workers from the 1937 Paris Exposition, the Graf Zeppelin, a peculiar rear view of a DC-3 steel mills spewing fiery molten metal book ended by the stem profiles of Washington and Lincoln, as carved on Mount Rushmore.
Images of metal and stone set against sky, "Documentary Painting" is a panorama of failed promises and shattered Utopian dreams. By dramatizing the already-over-dramatized, Gipe exposes the fictions inherent in history and the pompous proclamations of authority. Gipe's is an indirect but effective means of reminding us to heed the lessons of the Industrial Revolution as we speed down the Information Highway-and he entreats us to observe ourselves as we will be judged by future generations.