Avery Lawrence is a multi-faceted performance artist who combines performance, video, sculpture, drawing, and painting in a site-specific space. His inspiration and narrative is drawn from his paternal grandparents. His grandmother’s ability to adapt to life’s big changes and his grandfather’s massive stroke and dementia, it is here in the performance that he pays homage to both. By taking the performance out of the gallery and into a public space, New Orleans based Avery Lawrence is able to engage the audience fully, by creating physical and personal interactions that highlight life’s many transitions, including the notions of futility and the absurd which are themes running through the performance.
A short seven minute film plays whilst the performance takes place in a carefully orchestrated space reminiscent of a family living room. Each day at SCOPE Miami 2012, over six days, he performs multiple times and presents A Show – the flawed magic show, tap routine performed to impress a chair. The show ends as a dance with the chair strapped to his back.
The entire installation space is lined with wallpaper designed and printed by Lawrence, incorporating a beehive shape (reminiscent of his grandmother’s beehive hairstyle) blossoming out of a brass instrument in a repeated intertwining green, black and cream pattern, a reminder of her many wallpapered rooms. The wing backed chair custom upholstered with the pattern starts on the wallpaper and continues onto Lawrence’s suit in the film.
Lawrence performs multiple characters that engage in physically demanding, yet absurd tasks, a character who carries a series of blue suitcases of varied dimensions which contain different parts of a brass musical instrument that he assembles and plays for his final scene. A railroad track or a canal are all carefully crafted to represent crossing the void, the void being a transition from one life to another, death and rebirth. His real live performance encompasses carrying an armchair on his back, a very physically demanding act. He fully immerses the audience into a slightly confusing world, with both a poetic and a strange sense of nostalgia, whilst at the same time remaining very contemporary. Lawrence applies several conventions of early cinema within the first part act of the video and the actual live performance. During his act – reminiscent of Keaton or Chaplin – the artist takes the suit or the straw boater hat to perform actions that are distinctly modern. The film could stand alone, but here it is immersed with the room, the wallpaper, the drawings and the props. Put on display, the props become art objects situated among eclectic drawings, paintings and photographs, or musical instruments like Lawrence’s fantastical machine, the sousaphone and ink and gouache drawings. What is significant here is the continuity of each piece as part of the greater composition. They inter-connect with the installation space to describe a serious subject made into a versatile, whimsical, funny light hearted performance.
Avery Lawrence’s work is about big ideas. The multiple mediums used in such a versatile way are just as many ways the artist demonstrates that performance art is an evolving medium and the more you look, the more you discover there are many layers to uncover here. It is oddly moving even if it is hard to pin it down. But one thing is for sure – the rapid growth and accessibility of new media, information and technology are changing the very meanings and interpretations of performative art and Avery Lawrence’s work is right up there.
Selected from thousands of artists, Avery Lawrence was the Grand Prize winner in the third annual Art takes Miami, See I Me competition. As part of the prize, he received a featured booth at SCOPE Miami 2012. See I Me is a website and mobile New York City exhibition space with the mission of bringing international exposure and support to emerging artists of all types, with a global creative community of over 550,000.