Thomas Lawson: Humor in Painting

Thomas Lawson, Confrontation: Headbangers, 2010, oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches (
Thomas Lawson, Confrontation: Headbangers, 2010, oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches (courtesy of the artist)

A report on a talk by painter Thomas Lawson about his work and practice given recently at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

"Early in his talk, Lawson brought up the question of painting's current validity as a medium - an ongoing dialog in which he has had a significant voice. Perhaps not surprisingly, he only touched briefly on this well-worn topic, using it to segue into an interesting assessment of the importance of humor in contemporary art... [Lawson noted that] "you have to open yourself up to a kind of idea of humor. That you can do whatever you like as long as it makes for something that is discontinuous and upsetting, or unsettling and sort of unbalanced in some way." Lawson's definition of humor was the take away moment from the talk. Why should painting aspire to discontinuity, upset, and unbalance? Maybe because the only way to actually see anything anymore, in a world saturated with easily consumable images, is to challenge visual expectations. It's an idea that was explored thoroughly by the Pictures Generation, of which Lawson was a part, but one that still resonates."