Walking from Ted Stamm’s current exhibition at Lisson Gallery to Dan Flavin: in daylight or cool white at David Zwirner, the sharp angles of the two artists’ works seem to echo each other, representing two bodies of minimalist experimentation with a similar interest in form, and riffing on the shape of their canvas, whether that canvas be paper, neon, or stretcher. Stamm’s show is perhaps the more grounded in the traditional language of art-making, yet equally pushes his works to the semantic breaking points of the art object.
Entering Lisson, the viewer is confronted with Stamm’s “Wooster” series: musings on the angle of his street corner in Tribeca, explored in various colors, textures, and materials on each wall of the gallery space. The first you see is the largest, “Lo Wooster,” intentionally displayed just off the gallery floor, and presenting itself as more of an installation piece than the rest of the works, which are hung and create a ribbon patterned with the same irregular shape repeating itself. The angle and its repetitions are represented in different colors and through different mediums: pencil, pen, and shades of grey to bright pink.
There is no wall text in the exhibit, but following the angles through the space leads to a vitrine of ephemera–Stamm’s notes, sketches, exhibition materials, even collage tests of these same finished works we see hung–that gives insight not only into Stamm’s process but also his exhibition history, and place in the canon. Seeing Stamm play with how to present this idea in different ways through these materials is beautiful to see, and presents Stamm as much as an obsessive draftsman as a conceptually-driven artist (Stamm went to school for graphic design). The table includes gallery show cards and art historical essays written about the artist and the series. Given the exhibit looks specifically at his experimentation within one series, it adds a significant amount of interest to the closely curated show to see how the minimal, finished works came to be, and what their significance has been historically in the same gallery context in which they are presented again now.
This collection of archival material acts as an introduction to his photographs, installed at the very back of the gallery as the last component of the show. In this instance, they are illustrative in a similar way to the table of ephemera: they educate the viewer on Stamm’s process, rather than offer visual experiments in and of themselves. Part of Stamm’s “Designator” series, the images show the same irregular shape that the viewer has seen throughout the show, stuck in a smaller scale on the bumpers of cars, ready to be seen outside the walls of a gallery. The photography and ephemera of the exhibit also begin to illustrate a broader moment in the art world in 1970s New York, which is in contrast to the aforementioned Flavin show, that shows his neon forms alone in the gallery space and suggests appreciation from the viewer in a different way than Stamm suggests at Lisson.
Following the exhibit, Lisson will publish a monograph based on the exhibit and the “Wooster” series, including writing from Alex Bacon. Given the ephemera and materials on paper that highlight the show, this should be a stellar text with which to follow it.
— E. Macdonald
Ted Stamm [Lisson Gallery]