The Artist: Ron Laboray
Painting as a conceptual object in a Metamodernist period
One of the best aspects about making art today is the loss of a master narrative and the ability to build a new narrative, many new narratives. There is a freedom to create any discourse you wish, in any method or form one desires. I choose to make works that combine a certain level of conceptual rigor, a lighthearted humor, and the beauty of a well-crafted object. These paintings oscillate between concepts in abstract mapping, and naturalistic representation. Abstraction or realistic representation, here, are not placed in opposition to each other, but are related through actual, perceptual, and procedural distances. The paintings, as historical documents, attempt to archive common cultural effects and a momentary worldview. This practice reflects on the ability of humans to define identity and reality though sharing interpretation and invention.
My studio practice is conceptually driven from my experiences as an artist and archaeologist. I make paintings, which are maps, or chart based on or follows scientific rules to organize abstract data. Within archaeology, much of the important knowledge is gained through the detritus of past culture. The work focuses on similar type of worthless and random material for subject matter; our pop culture, junk mail, and spectacle.
“I found myself in the position of changing an actual public map. I was working as an archaeologist in a research program. This particular day a colleague and I were researching the prehistoric mound culture of this region. Using historical maps as well as written accounts we were certain that we had stumbled upon a considerably large mound that had yet to be recorded or named. Most large mounds have been recorded for nearly a century. We visited the site, which, to the untrained eye, is nothing more than a red brick house on a rise. Even with our prior knowledge, the mound was nearly indiscernible. There was little left of the ancient earthwork; our culture was eclipsing the past. A very old man home occupied the little brick. While explaining the house was something of an heirloom (passed down through three generations), he began to unzip an old shaving case. He presented my colleague with a ground greenstone celt and from the exact period, which confirmed our mound suspicions. The ax head was polished smooth from use, measuring roughly eighteen centimeters and its weight was greater than one might imagine. It had been found not ten feet from the house. Later in the day came a surface survey. Combing the ground looking for artifacts, I found the other important factor that would ultimately augment the map. I bent to retrieve the small shard of sand tempered pottery, amazed to find it at the surface, even after eight hundred years. We finalized our analysis, collecting core samples from the mound; the map could now receive its alteration. In the end, we named the mound after the very old man. I had a hand in changing many more maps that year and every time I had a special feeling I could see the effect of many cultures on the same place. I could measure and represent it. I could change the perception of history.”
I embrace science for a more accurate representation, a reduction of subjectivity and increase specificity. The tactic is to employ appropriated “scientific” and sometimes Pseudo-scientific methods and rules. Cartographers and scientists use their training to create factual interpretations. Factual representations have always been questioned in painting because of the subjectivity involved in the artist’s decisions. The artist’s decisions lie between the subject and the result becoming more of an opinion. Science (the process) is given credence as the scientist acts as facilitator. My distance in process is a measure to enforce a similar unbiased result. For example, The Law of Superposition holds that what comes first is on bottom. This “rule” allows me to avoid the decisions about formal appearance and helps organize paint application. The fact that the plastic paint is specifically measured and poured through funnels and constructed jigs is another conceptual limitation on personal influence.
Common example of an archaeological feature with a profile wall cut. A feature is a place where something has happened in the past, usually disturbing the land. A feature may be a fire or trash pit, a burial or a home, each telling us something about those who made the feature.
The profile/ Law of Super Positioning / The Law Original Horizontality
My painting and drawing processes involve employing all technologies: high and low. Jigs are fashioned to repeat tasks, the computer is used to design and inform, and digital platforms and projections force end user interactivity. Below are examples of how I utilize the profile and the Law of Superposition. The Law of Superposition hold that what come first is on bottom. In this case, what is closest to the ground. The features, mass culture references, are then represented from a birds eye view and the x,y,z axis.
Diagram demonstrating Laboray’s conceptual application of the Law of Superposition.
Batman Superman Team Up #3- 2000 -and the jig which assist in the produced.
The colors of Batman and Superman were deposited onto the actual locations of cities named Gotham and Metropolis
The History of Cartoon Icons – 2011- Dimensions variable.
The base is airbrushed like dry cracked earth representing a moment of origin where nothing existed prior. Using the Law of Superposition one can read the stack from bottom to top; Steam Boat Willy, Mickey Mouse, and then Hello Kitty. This organization matches up with the time the characters first appear in popular culture.
The General Lee Over General Lee 2010 15.5x13x8''
The two profiles are stacked in regards to the time each first appeared in culture. The bottom profile is a representation of the black and white image of the American Civil War’s General Lee and the top profile represents the car of the same name in the 1980’s television program “The Dukes of Hazard”. The surface image is the county map of Georgia reveling the location of Hazard County marked with a Confederate flag, which also appeared on top of the television car.
Laboray believes these locations, events, and ideas will be the research points for future social scientists. His innocuous aspects and random samples of pop culture reveal coded beliefs and attitudes in respect to our time.
Laboray’s paintings are in the form of maps and charts and attempt to archive cultural effect. Popular culture disseminates information that leads us to believe Metropolis and Gotham are the homes of Superheroes. Through similar means, we come to see any town bearing the name of Springfield as a potential residence of The Simpsons. Many locations enjoy a simultaneous existence in both fiction and reality. Beliefs generated by invented identities influence our perception of “the real”. Imagined identity can also be imposed on place through reoccurring phenomena like the Super Bowl, World Fairs, or a papal visit. These events, though short lived and migrant, create an atmosphere of close connection and in this, the chosen locations will share in the legacy and identity that is lent through hosting these various spectacles.
Scientists often date or identify an artifact by how its made and the material used in its production. Shiny and plastic like their subject of pop culture, the materials used in the paintings are metaphorically linked to the subject and to current cultural conditions. Plastic represents not only the nature of the ever-changing pop phenomena but also corporate ownership and the virtual world. The slick presence of the automobile urethane and surfboard resin is representative of the nature of the event itself. The painted surface (the dimensions of a flat screen television or a more scientific square) is actually an aluminum panel sold commercially as signboard, teasing the notion that painting and science are connected as systems of signs.
All Who Won and Loss the Indianapolis 500 in 2003 using the Law of Superposition – 24x36” -2004
Tradition of reveling the unknown
“Our experimentations and meditations, on occasion, come together with the hand to manifest something crucial to our time. This practice is not one of illusion but one of fact and purpose. Our intentions are specific and our processes imperative and personal. The artist, like any magician or spiritualist, entertains through awe, driven by the motivation that the last moment of prestidigitation can be superseded by yet another. The audience is then rewarded by this daily determination, with an object or moment of contemplation and faith, which holds the aura that quenches the cult of the original. My archive then is built on the faith that they will have future importance for both science and art by visually quantifying and measuring this time.” -Ron Laboray
Map making/expressions and types
Mapping has always included biases. Color, font, scale and information can be affected by what the mapmaker deems culturally and politically important. The map will also reflect the technologies and information available to the culture at the time the map was made. The map itself becomes a significant object of study beyond the information it presents.
Human interconnection and posterity
Maps can demonstrate the interconnection that occurs from the spread of these cultural concepts. Trade routs, migration patterns, language, religion, artistic style and food preparation are some examples of how we understand the spread of a culture.
All the McDonald Restaurants on Earth in 2004 - 2004 Barbie’s Dream Globe, everywhere Barbie is sold. - 2004
Superheroes, cartoons, sporting events, and vacation are ready made signs that handle complex universal ideas such as “truth” or "the real". Superman determines what is good and what is evil, not allowing religion or society to determine these things for him. He uses a reason that is independent of the modern values of society or religion. The Simpson family represents the good and bad in the everyman, while testing the newest cultural morals and beliefs. Vacations, specifically camping, condone the separation of nature from culture. This promotes the use of ideas such as natural and synthetic, real and unreal. This works to the same degree with theme parks; an intentional false reality in an actual location. Television transmits "live" or "true" representations, which of course are not live but synthesized; this increases our tolerance for mediated and corporately funded truths that further define reality.
Below are two examples of Laboray’s paintings of famous images that represent “locations” that are shared and that are filled with the cultural importance of the “hero”.
Based on a famous scene in the film Star Wars," These aren't the droids you're looking for."- 2011, where the hero outwits his adversary.
An American Painting -2010- Based on Washington Crossing the Delaware by artist
Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze the profiled painting is filled with culture’s need for the hero to overcome adversity with bravery and moral values.
The Great Wall of Aquaman- 2005 - colored pencil on paper
Laboray’s drawings are often models for the idea of accumulated exposure to these popular icons. From the micro to macro the re-exposure to these ideas add up to monumental amounts and connect us. The models are represented in the forms of a great wall, great piles, or even an entire world. The poetics of “A World of Charlie Browns” unites all of us though the idea of the born looser. Science is also a player in the structure of the drawings. Color is arranged through the scientific Law of Superposition and many of the forms like the frog egg shape of “Kermits Over Piggy”.
Kermits over Piggy- 2005- pastel on paper 48x56”
Drawing and Time:
“Matter of Fact Drawings”
My current project “Little Richard’s Almanac” contains a series of drawing mirroring the mixed-up and rearranged condition of mass culture. This series “Matter of Fact” drawings utilizes found data from internet searches, satellite television channel guides, and random information obtained through advertising, social other public media, I see the drawings as historical documents recording current cultural conditions and archiving information for future social scientists and art historians.
These drawings represent points along a time lines that include common facts and known histories, science, collections describing our shared world, invented fictions and cultural myths, which compel hope and demonstrate important values.
The images within the drawings originate from photographic and painted images of important historical moments, scientific illustrations, pop culture elements like comic books, television, advertising and film, and visual information supporting myths, and conspiracy.
These pen and ink drawings operate using appropriated laws from science like “The Law of Superposition” which is a way to tell geological time. The older information, which came first in time, is on bottom and the newer more recent information is on top. Drawing traditions also lend to deciphering the time lines. Clarity and overlap are used in creating a since of time through distance, detail and sharpness.
In the end, the drawings frame a narrative of humanity and demonstrate the information and ideas that are current and accessible to most everyone. The drawings include those things we have in common like origins and final or prime examples, and the ideas, hopes and beliefs we share within myths, religion, science, and our idea of place and self.
From the point of Archaic tools, the future includes the gun that killed Archduke Ferdinand and the first image of Mickey Mouse. Image 11.5”x8.5” Acid free ink on 11x14” Bristol paper. 2016
Obscured by a Soviet chart of UFO s the first explosion of an atomic bomb and the last meeting between Lee and Jackson are joined using the Law of Superposition. Image 11.5”x8.5” Acid free ink on 11x14” Bristol paper. 2016
The last man on the Moon and the oldest icon of the first pope separated by all the state flowers of the United States. Image 11.5”x8.5” Acid free ink on 11x14” Bristol paper. 2016
With an image of the last battle of the French and Indian War on the horizon, the first image of Mars form Mars is obscured by examples of German butterflies. Image 11.5”x8.5” Acid free ink on 11x14” Bristol paper. 2016
The Topographical Project:
Soon we will inhabit Mars and use its water for oxygen and fuel. One of the most famous images from Mars is the photo “Face on Mars” . This photo of a Martian mountain looks like a human face but after a 3D scan of the surface it turns out to be just a mountain formed by erosion.
Like the face on Mars, consider the paintings as topographical views of 2D maps. The 2D maps, in this case, are previously painted timelines of random information. These were scanned and then cut 3D using a CNC router. I then repainted them like the original.
Like the Face on Mars we can see a more truer since of those timeline moments as complex locations we all share or simply enjoy the abstracted aesthetic result of the random
"Topographical view of four occurrences of Kermit floating above colors of the most recent Super Bowl sponsors with a far away image of the last battle of the American Revolutionary war."
High density urethane CNC routed and painted with auto enamel.
Dimensions: 30 x 40 x 2 2019
"Topographical view of the concept of the Loch Ness monster and the colors of everyTriple Crown winner seen organized using the Law of Superposition which are obscured by 9 iron men and 15 Chinese flags."
- High density urethane CNC router and auto enamel Dimensions: 30 x 40 x 2 2019
“The New Narrative" paintings continue utilizing a time line for compositional arrangement. The information or data which is represented is organized top to bottom and back to front to signify subject matter’s relationship to each other’s location on the historical timeline. The tradition within painting’s golden age hold the forms of portrait, landscape and still life and are intentionally referenced through similar types of subject matter and made from similar materials but updated with contemporary color and light. The shift or oscillation from the previous abstract work, which included the same sorts of data like history, myth, mass culture and science, to works containing more realism nourishes my curiosity about the direction of my painting practice and offers new audiences, uninitiated to my abstraction, an opportunity to join the discourse.
“With a Hello Kitty horizon, a collection of South American butterflies obscures the first image of Mars from Mars.” 2020 oil on linen 24x30
“With Wonder Woman on the horizon, the national flowers of India and Pakistan cushion the leg bone of Evel Knievel.” 2020 oil on linen 24x30”
“ The first image of Mickey Mouse came before this collection of Archaic stone tools.” 2020 oil on linens 24x30
The work of Ron Laboray has been exhibited in museums, special project spaces, and galleries in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Memphis, St. Louis , Budapest, Taiwan, Ireland and Japan. Laboray's art merges abstract painting and drawing with a pseudoscientific method to create a growing visual archive of popular culture. His method appropriates existing laws found in science, like the Law of Superposition, and invents strategies like the Law of Temporal Clarity to assist in his making process. The materials and forms he uses include poured plastic, sprayed auto urethane on aluminum, interactive animations and films made with robots., synthetic felt and fabrics. He sees these mediums and processes tied metaphorically to popular culture. In his work, the visual language of abstraction supports a color-coded archive of data revealing the identity of place and memory based on globalized mass culture elements like television, movies, comic books, fast food logos and junk mail advertising and Internet search engines.