Cyrus Lemmon’s MFA exhibition, A Reversal of Fortune, culminated this evening with an artist talk in the University Gallery. Cyrus began by explaining his inspiration which was essentially the urbanization of natural spaces and the resulting effect on the landscape when these areas are abandoned and begin to decay. Specifically, growing up in Southern California at the edge of the Los Angeles basin, Lemmon was influenced heavily by the dichotomy between the sparse desert and the concrete grid of the city. Nearby, in many areas of the Mojave Desert and in parts of Nevada, mines and nuclear testing left holes in the landscape and many of his works make reference these events.
Formally, his works are displayed as paintings but are in fact 3D reliefs produced using a variety of materials including spackle, MDF, acrylic, and washes which were applied and often removed much like the structures that he references. To extend the feeling of desolation at these places, each piece is monochromatic but with a wide spectrum of light and dark values. Parts of the surface were carved with knives and saws, sanded, or drilled creating deep craters and cuts. Generally, the works resemble satellite photos of the Earth’s surface but rather than reproducing specific areas, Lemmon traveled through the desert and put in his personal reflection of the environment he experienced into each piece. The resulting effect creates complex textures that reflect both the natural landscape and the scars from the construction of urban infrastructure.
In closing, Lemmon explained that while he was influenced by specific places in the Southwestern United States, this process of construction and decay is a global issue. Much of our natural landscape has been covered by manmade structures yet once these structures are abandoned, it doesn’t take long for nature to reclaim the land. As he continues his work as an artist, Lemmon vows to continue his exploration of this concept and I look forward to seeing more of his work.