Room482 bears witness to the artist’s process. Stray brushstrokes dot the walls, and paint peels off the walls, revealing the outlines of once-mounted frames. Traces of the domestic, too, are present in the converted studio and gallery. It’s only fitting that in this intimate environment, Aidan Lapp shows his first solo presentation of works, Cohort.
Cohort consists of watercolor and graphite portraits of the artist and his friends and lovers. Lapp turns social gatherings into life-study classes, coaxing Polaroid portraits out of his muses in dramatically-lit bedrooms, his own overgrown backyard that boasts a yurt. These moments of connection feed his practice, and are the basis of the works on view.
Lapp’s exploration of intimacy is nowhere more evident than in his subjects’ expressions. Lida and Lida in Backyard feature the same subject in two different settings and mediums. In both works, the subject’s gaze appears almost distant, disinterested. The lack of expression should not be read as aggression or confrontation, though, but rather authenticity and friendship. In the company of friends and peers, we are free to abandon the performances we play in public spaces. Lapp, with the permission of his subjects, gives viewers glimpses into his subjects’ inner worlds, depicting with care not only their physical forms but also taxidermied crocodile heads and still-wet laundry, hanging dry.
Materiality is of significant interest to the artist, who challenges perceived limitations of mediums like watercolor and graphite. Lapp applies watercolors like oils, bringing out an unexpected vibrancy and opacity from the paints. This technique lends a weight and presence to his works rarely found in conventional watercolor paintings. Lapp’s confident brush strokes weave colors of the Viennese Secession—visceral burgundies, gunmetal blues, decadent golds—throughout his compositions, echoing the artist’s woven garments that clothe many subjects. In this way, Lapp cuts his subjects out of his cloth, creating a tribe, a cohort of otherwise strangers.
The artist’s graphite drawings pose a counterpoint to Cohort’s watercolor paintings. Midtones continue to dominate the canvas, but Lapp exercises less control in his drawings, leaning toward the abstract sketchiness associated with underdrawings. Works in graphite are rarely perceived as finished works; they are, to most painters, a means to an end. Yet Lapp hangs his graphite portraits amongst painted ones, disregarding historical hierarchies of form.
Self in Foliage, and its painted mirror Yours Truly, also demonstrate Lapp’s recent movement towards abstraction. Subjects are recognizably themselves, and yet are interpreted in his new visual code. These abstracted figures are the apotheosis of Lapp’s career thus far, and mark a shift in the way the young artist sees and will continue to see his Cohort.
Aidan Lapp is an artist based in Brooklyn, NY. He is currently a Senior at the Pratt Institute, where he is majoring in Painting.