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STEPHEN LAUB

The Daily Mirror
September 8 - October 1, 2023
Opening Reception: Friday, September 8, 6-8pm
Gallery hours for Stephen Laub: The Daily Mirror are Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 12-6pm and by appointment.
For appointments and inquiries please email info@essexflowers.us


The Daily Mirror, 2023. Wood, foam core, paint; 48” x 36” x 12”

Essex Flowers is pleased to present The Daily Mirror, a survey of recent sculpture by Stephen Laub. Like the eponymous work in the exhibition, these objects refer to the personal, political and social concerns that inform the artist’s daily practice. Laub’s wooden wall sculptures in the front gallery are memorials to paper documents that have had outsized historical effects. Individual works in the series may represent the grave differences between documents as plans and as records, matter-of-fact memos impacting individuals or entire populations, and maps of abstracted territories. These works evoke an intention to dissemble information, misrepresent motives, and retract evidence, as wry inquiries into both the precarious nature of social agreements, and the uncertain outcome of personal ambitions.

In the rear gallery, the artist displays works from three series that use the forms of traditional men’s hats as tropes for masculine identity, social status and categorization. In Mud, wooden hats are painted and covered with mud, sometimes surfaced with gold leaf. In Masked, the brims of found hats emerge from behind silver-leafed silhouettes. The hats in Citizen are transformed into pastel and charcoal renderings of their own photographic negatives, an illusion enhanced by their framing within file folders. Across these series, the guise imposed onto the traditional men’s hat serves as a distraction from the politics and symbolism evoked by its familiar shape.

“My works over the last fifty years have all referred to history.  Being a first generation American has had a profound influence on how I make connections and use materials to express the impact of historical events on the individual within a larger society. My performances, videos and sculptures have dealt with the navigation of the immigrant experience within the ongoing puzzle of cultural adaptation and appropriation, class and power.” 
—Stephen Laub,  2023

STEPHEN LAUB  is a multidisciplinary artist with a practice that spans five decades of work in performance art, video, and sculpture. Born in Oakland, California in 1945, Laub completed his studies at UC Berkeley, receiving his MA in 1970.  He moved to New York City in 1977, and taught at Tyler School of Art and at Rutgers University, Newark, until his retirement in 2018. Laub’s early work was considered important in the Conceptual Art movement in California in the 1970s, alongside figures such as Terry Fox and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. A distinct thread connects his  performance and video to his lesser-known sculptural work of the last forty years.

In Laub’s early performances, the artist fitted himself into the projected images of familial and historical characters by observing himself in mirrors, for audiences at 112 Greene Street, The Kitchen, MoMA, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Photographic documentation of his performance art is held by the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Smithsonian Institution NMAA, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Laub’s video work of the 1980s, which also used techniques of projections with political references, is included in the permanent collections of MoMA, SFMoMA, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and the Addison Gallery of American Art, and was exhibited in the 1984 Venice Biennale.

Laub’s sculptural works in the 1980s were gilded, wooden icons of common objects that served as frames for historical photos, giving the objects new, politically charged meanings. They were represented by International with Monument, subsequently at Koury-Wingate, and then Elan Wingate Gallery until its closing in 1993. Laub’s sculptures are in numerous private collections as well as the permanent collections of The Watermill Center and the Yale University Art Gallery. They have been shown at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and, among other museum venues, most recently at the Parrish Art Museum in 2009 and The Church, Sag Harbor, in 2023.