press release

In his expansive drawing practice, Tony Lewis uses action and language to explore communication, presence, and authority. Focusing on graphite powder as a basic material element, his works emphasize the body through scale, tension, and imprint. Tony Lewis: pressure free weight power nomenclature movement is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition. In keeping with the process-driven, non-hierarchical nature of Lewis’ work, the word order of the exhibition’s title will be kept in flux.

The exhibition features six new large-scale works from Lewis' recently begun series of Gregg shorthand drawings. Invented in 1888, Gregg shorthand is a now outmoded phonetic writing system, where particular line forms correspond to spoken sounds. Each of the drawings features one of the words from the exhibition’s title, which collectively speak to the artist's process and concerns. These solitary hand-written characters emphasize the fluid, abstract, and gestural nature of notation. The exhibition will also feature one of Lewis’ floor drawings, which begin as graphite-coated paper floor coverings for entire rooms. After their initial installation, they are pulled up and compressed into sculptural objects, which are transformed each time they are exhibited, accumulating marks, creases, and tears.

Lewis also will install a large text piece, visible from the Museum’s monumental stair. Made with nails, stretched rubber bands, and graphite, this work is part of a series based on excerpts from Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. First encountered by the artist in his mother’s bathroom, this book has gone on to play an influential role in his practice. In isolating and magnifying these “instructions,” Lewis shifts their meaning and reveals the ways in which they assume, exclude, and exert power, while also speaking to personal fears and desires.

Tony Lewis (1986, LA), grew up in Cleveland and currently lives and works in Chicago. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at Bindery Projects, Minneapolis; Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago; and Massimo de Carlo, London. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including Sharon Hayes, Tony Lewis, Adam Pendleton, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York (2015); the 2014 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; NEXT (2014), The Arsenal, Montreal; and Retreat (2014), organized by Theaster Gates, and presented by Black Artist Retreat, Valerie Carberry Gallery and Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago.