Although it"s not officially listed among the media in Todd Lantz"s pieces, FGR-95 is, literally, what pulls them together. Primarily a material used for moldmaking and casting, the stuff has been interpreted by artist Lantz not as a means to an end but rather the means as well as the end. This holds true for Forton as well, another casting material Lantz employs in his fine art sculptures.
"cross section" by Todd Lantz
These aren"t your typical materials, but Lantz isn"t known for pursuing traditional aesthetics, either. The artist, whose recent body of work, aptly titled New Methods of Delivery, is on view at Eye Blink gallery in the Murphy Art Center, happened to be photographing his work the day I visited the gallery, giving me the serendipitous opportunity to chat with him about his unique conceptions. The exhibit, which fills the gallery"s ample space, is comprised of freestanding sculptures as well as framed three-dimensional works: Forton landscapes, if you will. But what does Lantz do with the stuff, and why? "The Forton sort of stays the same until right at the end and then it kicks," Lantz explains. Surely this is a metaphor for something. It speaks to my response to the exhibit: I was unable to discern the poetry that distinguished one piece from the next until I visited the work for a good long while. Then it kicked in, and like discerning a familiar image in a puff of clouds, I suddenly saw trees, figures, structures. Lantz, who practiced art here years ago and moved to Florida, returning within the past couple of years, has always pushed the envelope of conceptual art that incorporates both heady aesthetic ideas and detailed construction. But on first glance, it"s of the "My kid could"ve made this" variety. Not so on closer inspection. "Head in the Clouds," for example, would appear to be an assemblage of random found objects globbed together with FGR-95 (which is gypsum-based) and Forton (which is an extension of gypsum-based plaster with a cocktail of other congealing components mixed in). All of this is held in place by a grid of wire fencing, which forms the skeletal structure. "It"s pretty much the root of all these pieces," Lantz offers. An old toy race car, a snapshot, electronic components, a random block of wood and a multitude of things I can"t recognize comprise the piece. It"s a reverse time capsule of sorts, welding the parts of our contemporary and less recent popular culture in a man-made fixative that is its own cultural phenomenon. But Lantz takes care to compose each artwork so that the initial randomness is polished. Each piece evolves and is a product of both the artist"s imagination and the materials" caprices. "Then I can approach it as a painter," Lantz says, "and really work with the combination of the colors, and go back in and refine." Lantz, in the spirit of the conceptualists, has contrived to offer something more than the contents of his internal aesthetic meanderings. Like all good conceptual art, we, the viewers, are challenged to see something other than what we would expect. As Lantz states, "The process involved the development of components and the manipulation of materials based on rules that are made in order to be broken." Todd Lantz: New Methods of Delivery is on view at Eye Blink, 1043 Virginia Ave., 636-6363, through March 28. Gallery hours are Thursday, Friday and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. and by appointment.