Laurie Lipton: Techno Rococo


(February-June, 2016)

Laurie Lipton’s solo exhibition, Techno Rococo, is an ironic take on our society’s complicated progress from the industrial to the tech revolutions. While her complex vision — a dystopian future featuring details of retro beauty juxtaposed with contemporary references — comes across like a horror movie, the exhibition is mesmerizing. Lipton’s large photorealist, graphite pencil and charcoal drawings all have a surreal twist, seducing the viewer into approaching the way a Diane Arbus or a Joel-Peter Witkin photograph compels us to dance. But once up close and present, the viewer is assaulted with a barrage of imagery. It hits deep. This dance of seduction can get uncomfortable; a tap dance of cacophonous beats that may have you stepping on your own feet.

Born in 1953, Lipton grew up during a time when many women stayed home to take care of the household. In her piece Cooked, a well-coiffed housewife is in her kitchen seemingly making dinner. Instead of the juicy turkey one might expect, however, she is extricating a tired, run-down machine from the oven. The cupboards are packed – not with food , but tubes and pipes. She seems happy and completely oblivious. In another piece, Off, the housewife stands in front of an open refrigerator holding a bottle of milk; the refrigerator is loaded with rotten food. When you look closely, two sly, satirical details of this disturbing tableau surreptitiously emerge: The cord to the icebox lies unplugged on the floor while the housewife herself has a small crack in her front tooth; the smile is blemished. The tech revolution doesn’t go unmocked either. In Wired, a wrinkled arm dominates a busy digital-wire background, the hand holding a cellphone with a selfie image capturing a partial view of a face. A single troubled eye looks out toward the viewer.

Disturbing, humorous, apocalyptic, entertaining, the dance goes back and forth. Lipton’s conclusion is unmistakable: our collective soul is dying. But maybe we will just ignore the chaos, our inevitable destruction and death, like lemmings walking off a cliff.

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