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In the summers of his youth, Lance Letscher cleaned out vacated
rental properties owned by his grandparents in northeast Texas.
The expanse of grazing pasture and cotton fields resurfaces
in his intricate, geometric collages, along with a curious
habit of imagining other people's lives from the traces left
behind. His landscape compositions, sometimes mural-sized,
recall Paul Klee paintings, aerial photographs, or stratigraphic
maps, charged with a certain psychological resonance.
Trained as a printmaker at the University of Texas, Letscher
starts with an intuitive sense of palette and scale. He prospects
thrift stores, junk shops, and used bookshelves for old ledgers,
notebooks, diaries, handwritten lists, letters, and recipe
cards. Boxes of antique papers line his worktable. Sliced
into strips, squares, or wedges and embedded in crystalline
patterns, they become both shards of memory and the puzzle
pieces of new fictional narratives, the clues barely legible.
An analogy to quilt making is apt. Hours poring over his
of quilt blocks and patterns, as well as an eclectic stash
of art books, inform both process and image, leading Letscher
from one collage to the next. The challenge of breaking up
predictable structure erupts in riffs on color, texture, and
sheen, as seen in Red Bar. In the collages, the artist
often contrasts nuances in thickness and commercial printing,
selecting worn record jackets and pulp paperback covers with
bent corners or the bright candy colors of children's storybooks.
Red Bar, 2002; collage on masonite; 32 by 52.5 inches.
Images courtesy of Howard Scott Gallery, New York City.
Recent works such as White Flag use juxtapositions
and layering to create complex optical illusions. Letscher
describes the floating pointed ellipses as "specks you
see on a sugar-low." Another strategy involves chopping
up and reconfiguring pattern elements in order to achieve
a dense, syncopated harmony, for example in In a Hopeful
Letscher arrived at collage after making stone
sculpture and wood constructions. He began cutting out and
superimposing small realistic drawings of tree branches on
cardboard for depth, then working with monochromatic book
pages. His current work has propelled him beyond the sphere
of Austin, Texas, to a New York debut at Howard Scott Gallery
From Pablo Picasso to Kurt Schwitters, collage
became a modernist vehicle for transforming mundane castoffs
into art and fusing reality with abstraction.
In Lance Letscher's hands, the medium achieves a new tension
between precisionist patterning and the stuff of ordinary
life. His prolific and growing body of work exhibits the elegance
of a haiku or an Amish quilt crafted from vivid bits of memory
and time into a classic form.
Pamela Scheinman teaches in the Department of Art &
Design at Montclair State University in New Jersey.
A limited-edition hardbound catalog ($30) of Letscher's work
has been published by Howard Scott Gallery.
To contact the gallery by mail: 529 West 20th Street, New
York, N.Y. 10011
By phone: (646) 486-7004
By email: HscottM13@aol.com