Painting With John

2010-07-08-InventionofAnimalsI first caught wind of John Lurie as the stubborn, stone-faced proto-hipster in Jim Jarmusch’s essential, second feature, Stranger Than Paradise. In this film, the life of his character, Willie, is rudely interrupted by a surprise visit from his Hungarian cousin, Eva. The magic of this oddly entrancing movie lies in Willie’s subtle—if unwilling—acceptance of his own blood.

Following many more memorable film roles, a successful music career (in addition to writing and performing for his band, The Lounge Lizards, he composed the theme for Late Night with Conan O’Brien, along with the scores to a bunch of excellent movies), and a cult TV-show—Lurie has had to deal with a much more serious life interruption. He has been  suffering the debilitating symptoms of what he believes to be advanced neurological Lyme disease. And starting about four years ago, it got to the point where he couldn’t even play music anymore.

Stuck in his room, bored and in tremendous pain, Lurie began to paint, at first to simply concentrate on something besides his symptoms. Eventually, though, he began to use paint to express his inner-self—something only music could fulfill for him before. And while the results of his efforts in no way relieved him of his physical ailments, they did attract a lot of attention, and help launch yet another artistic career.

On view until August 7th at Gallery Brown in west Los Angeles, John Lurie: The Invention of Animals shows off his latest works. With such reliably clever and stinging titles as “The Skeleton in My Closet Has Moved Back to the Garden” and “The Spirits Are Trying To Tell Me Something But It’s Really Fucking Vague,” Lurie’s paintings seem to be directly related to his condition, failed attempts at escape maybe. According to him, “I am sure having the outlet helps me in some way. I know that when I got really sick and had to stop playing music that it was an unbearable loss. I never thought that painting could come out of my soul in the same way. But I think that it does at this point.”

To me, I know I have a hard time looking at Lurie’s visual work without sensing that same stone-faced Willie somewhere in there, slowly coming to terms with the disturbing though beautiful facts of his blood.

- By Joshua Morrison

For more from John Lurie, also check out this great interview on the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tanja-m-laden/speaking-with-john_b_640096.html

John Lurie: The Invention of Animals is on view until August 7th at Gallery Brown, located at 140 S. Orlando Ave. For more information, please visit www.gallerybrown.com, or call 323-651-1956.

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