Artist profile

Darren Lago

Productivism

In his Productivist works Lago juxtaposes and fuses every day objects into single pieces. Iconic design is spliced to make art, and art is dissected to unsettle its seriousness. A hoover is transformed into a urinal; the artist recounted how on seeing a display of vacuum cleaners in a department store he was immediately reminded of a row of urinals, the obvious allusion to Duchamp was a bi-product.

‘I have purposefully set out to design products, produced by technicians, for mass intellectual consumption. I have deliberately chosen materials from the High Street store, as an achieved visual democracy, unlike the steel mill, quarry or lumber yard.’ – Darren Lago, 1996

Appropriation

Darren Lago’s passion for design and modernism allows him to take a humorous peek at these two areas without sliding into cynicism. Antique Lego is used to render Mondrian into a tight plastic plane, but the distressed nature of the old and abused plastic blocks are in keeping with the now aged Mondrians that we see in museums, whereas the battered meccano used to construct the mini Judd interpretations highlight the differences; it reminds us of Judd’s engineering in his sculptures, underlining how resolutely clean cut his sculptures are.

Translation

Meaning is often lost in translation and on the one hand Lago enjoys that confusion, that obscuring of meaning, but on the other hand we see his playful side appear in the language of the titles. These titles amuse but are also used to deflect the attention from other readings of the work; Collar. Felt brings to mind the English colloquial phrase for arrest by the police, deflecting the idea of blue collar but also comparisons to Klein’s iconic blue. We see Lago rhyming in his bronze sculpture Working Vans, literally and visually. Out-sideboard is not only a play on words, it’s a play on design, a reflection on the marine design that found its way into architecture and everyday furniture. This amalgamation functions as furniture and vessel (Lago proposes to test this sculpture to its sea-worthiness).

Large Glass

‘I like the idea of playing with any feelings of complacency that the viewer may have about the territory of the work; to confound; to place the viewer between a mutant, mad, bad Mickey Mouse and a minimalist conceptual work. Through the treatment of the work I pay attention to positioning the viewer intellectually or physiologically.’ – Darren Lago, 2006

The revolving mirrors of Large Glass contain undetected motion and yet as the viewer passes by the open structure displaying their drive mechanisms, it is plain to see that they are quietly turning. It is at this point the viewer asks ‘Why?’. It is a purely conceptual notion. Here, visible to all, is the idea manifest; a mirror is attached to a motor that exists purely to rotate the mirror, but once the mirror is viewed the object appears unchanged. The five objects disappear into their surroundings, their context: the work reflects the space, its environment, without depiction, reference or symbol. It brings nothing of the artist’s subjective interpretation; it is only what the viewer sees. At this point, however, the work becomes flawed in its concept; the inaccuracy of the mirror’s surface causes the image in the mirror to ripple, to distort during its rotation. Perfection in concept or construction is not possible and so the mirror’s most engaging attribute is its flaw; imperfect circles.

Candy Press

In 1847, the invention of the candy press (also known as a toy machine) made it possible to produce multiple shapes and sizes of candy at once. In his series of Candy works Lago uses a mold to make a sweetie gun. These M16s were designed to be made in the same manner; guns mass manufactured in plastic, pressed from moulds. Assault weapons that were cheap and easy to manufacture, something to rival the success of the AK47. Lago’s candy sculptures are alluring, desirably sugary, we want to take a bite and all the implied allusions; from sticking the barrel in to your mouth, to the allure of the gun and the excessive consumption of sugar. One way or another its going to kill you. In the first ‘gun’ works Lago used cereal boxes pressed into moulds to make his Cereal Killer series, again taking everyday iconic images of art and design and merging them into objects both comforting and unsettling.

Iconoclasm

Rodin’s bombastic Balzac morphs into Mickey Mouse. Lago made his copy of Balzac in resin, it towers over the viewer nearly 9 feet tall, cocking its mousey nose in the air while an enormous clown like foot pokes out from under the robes. Lago’s recurring use of Mickey Mouse can be seen as reflecting his love for cut and pasting the two ends of the cultural spectrum, but also a comment upon America. American influence upon the old world culture, the manifest creep of its vernacular into other cultures, reflected in this French sculpture’s futile attempt to resist the inevitable? Racked behind the Balzac are smaller, multiples made from china clay, like souvenirs lining the shelves of any Parisian tourist shop.

Biography

1965
Born Walsall, Staffordshire
1985–88
BA Fine Art, Portsmouth Polytechnic
1989–90
MA Fine Art, Chelsea School of Art
1990
Awarded the Picker Fellowship, Kingston Polytechnic
1991
Awarded the Boise Scholarship, Slade School of Fine Art

Selected exhibitions

2013
Empire, Annely Juda Fine Art, London
2012
Piet & Ida Sanders: A Life With Art, Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, Netherlands
2012
Sugar, Davidson Contemporary, New York
2005
Psycho Plastic Works, Maxwell Davidson Gallery, New York
2001
Darren Lago & Co., The New Art Gallery, Walsall
2000
7 x 5 Sculpturess, Annely Juda Fine Art, London
1999
Lago Rosso, 1000 Eventi, Milan
1998
Haus Bill, Zumikon, Switzerland