Lawrence Carroll was an Australian-born, Italy-based artist who incorporated unorthodox objects into his delicate and understated paintings as a means of prodding discussions about the definitions of painting and sculpture in contemporary art.Read More
Carroll was born in Melbourne, and moved to Santa Monica in California with his family when he was a child. After attending the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, the artist moved to New York City in 1984, where he held his first solo exhibition at Stux Gallery in 1988. He gained attention for his box works—such as Ocean (c. 1986–1987) and You Bring Me Up, You Bring Me Down (1988)—in which oil paintings are stapled or stitched into the shape of a box. The boxes are mostly monochromatic, painted in the shades of muted pale colours that would become a defining characteristic of the artist's practice.
In the late 1980s and 1990s Lawrence Carroll participated in a number of notable group exhibitions, including Einleuchten at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg in 1989, curated by Harald Szeemann; documenta IX, Kassel, in 1992, curated by Jan Hoet; and The Material Imagination at Guggenheim Museum SoHo, New York, in 1995. He continued to exhibit internationally, especially in Europe.
As with his boxes, Lawrence Carroll's art incorporated three-dimensional elements into many of his paintings, creating artworks that fluidly exist between the two-dimensional painting and the sculptural object. Untitled (2011), for example, is an approximately 3.5-metres-tall and 3-metres-wide oil painting on canvas on wood, painted in muted yellowish white and grey; the artist made a small recess near the bottom of the painting, placing two plastic buckets inside, and attached a neon text to the upper part of the canvas. However, the artist always considered himself a painter, calling, for example, his deconstructed tables built from cardboard and scrap wood 'table paintings.'
While Carroll worked with traditional materials, particularly oil, wax, wood, and canvas, he is also known for employing unconventional and inexpensive materials. The oval-shaped canvases in 'White Oval Paintings' (2015–2017), for example, were painted with house paint and dust from the artist's studio. This preference for humble materials was reminiscent of Arte Povera, a post-war art movement that emerged in Italy in the 1960s with artists who experimented with cheap, everyday substances such as soil and rags. However, as critic David Carrier reminisced in memory of Carroll in Hyperallergic, the artist had developed these aesthetics in advance of learning about the movement.
One leitmotif in Lawrence Carroll's work is water, symbolising life with its endless trajectory. It often appears frozen, such as when the artist placed shoes on a plinth and covered them in ice (Untitled [Freezing Shoes], 2006) or when he placed a painting under a layer of ice at the 55th Venice Biennale (Freezing Painting, 2013). In Black Mirror Painting (2014)—a work included in his solo presentation That What Comes at Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris, in 2017—the artist covered an oval-shaped canvas in black house paint and traced the movement of flowing water by scraping the surface with his eyes closed.
Ocula | 2019