As if to prove that the most exciting contemporary art is made by the least usual of suspects, here comes Lance Letscher from Austin, Tex. Mr. Letscher, who is having his first solo New York exhibition at the Howard Scott Gallery, is unusual not just in terms of his geography, but also in his aesthetic. Uninterested in fashion, resistant to pomp and constitutionally incapable of the rote of superficial, he’s something we don’t encounter too often: an artist of substance, grit and purpose.
Mr. Letscher makes abstract collages from found objects, yet is particular enough about the objects he finds that that classification is all but beside the point. Favoring materials that have the patina of history and handling, Mr. Letscher shapes his art with old ledgers, discarded diaries, antiquarian books and recipes for Grandma’s Old Fashioned Molasses Nut Squares. While enamored of these items, the artist exhibits no compunction in slicing and dicing them for the greater good—that good being an art permeated with memory, encompassing in outlook and indebted to the land. His pieces bring to mind the notations of an amateur astronomer or the shimmer of the setting sun.
Mr. Letscher stops us in our tracks: once there, we don’t want to leave. As an artist, he’s as nuanced as Anne Ryan, as delicate as Joseph Cornell and as pure—in his own impure way—as Sol Lewitt. But the artist Mr. Letscher resembles most is William Blake: he, too, strives for unquenchable metaphysical sustenance. In the end, however, I prefer Mr. Letscher. His pictures are a lot more pliable than Blake’s—a lot less loony, too. In fact, the sober tone of Mr. Letscher’s reveries may be an indicator of the lonely fate a visionary suffers in an age as tech-happy as our own. Then again, it could just mean that he’s a laconic type from Texas. Whatever the case, this is one stunning debut.
Lance Letscher: Someone’s Life/Collages and Drawings is at Howard Scott Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, seventh floor, until April 27.