Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt

03 Jul – 28 Aug 2021
Jan Kaps, Cologne


Installation Views

Press Release

Jan Kaps is pleased to present Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt’s first solo exhibition in Germany, and with the gallery.

Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt

Since his start in the 1960s, Lanigan-Schmidt has drawn on a visual vocabulary rooted in both the culture of the New York LGBTQIA+ community, and in the Catholic iconography in which he was raised. As a gay youth in New Jersey, raised in a German and Irish Catholic family, Lanigan- Schmidt moved to New York where he found temporary refuge from the street at the Stonewall Inn. At this time in the United States, homosexuality was still classified as a form of mental illness and homosexual acts were illegal throughout the country. The Stonewall Inn was one of the few bars in New York where gay couples could drink, dance, and feel free from harassment and prejudice. In 1969, a police raid on the bar sparked a violent uprising, which in turn brought about widely-publicized and heavily attended demonstrations by members of the gay community. This event, and the ensuing demonstrations, became the birth of the modern gay and lesbian movement and raised public awareness of violence and discrimination against the community.

Exploring issues of class, homosexuality, gender, and religion, Lanigan-Schmidt has created sculptures, assemblages, and installations with a particular sensitivity to alternative and found materials. In his work, glitter alludes to the shimmering make-up and embellishments that street queens in New York would wear, while aluminum and gold foil reference the aesthetics of Christian and Byzantine iconography. Blending craft and humble materials with high art, the sacred with the profane, Lanigan-Schmidt defied the reductive aesthetic of monochrome and conceptual art that was prevalent in the early to mid-1970s.

This exhibition features the artist's intricate sculptures from the late 1960s to the 1970s, along with wall installations from the 1990s, including his signature Lasagna Pans. For the sculptures on display, Lanigan-Schmidt combined clippings from gay magazines with self-portraits, text elements and various found material to compose detailed, multi-layered and glittering assemblages he refers to as knick-knacks. In these works, the influence of Catholic rites, domestic icons and the splendor of religious adornment of devotees is also evident in his use of liturgical devices. Equally, the forms and images of tabernacles and chalices, which appear both in the artist’s delicate, almost documentary-like drawings on aluminum pans, resonate in the forms and shapes of his sculptures.

The work of Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt has been presented in numerous exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale of 1980 and 1984, the Whitney Biennial of 1991 and the seminal exhibition The American Century: Art & Culture 1950-2000 at the Whitney Museum in 1999. In 2012, the artist was the subject of a critically acclaimed retrospective at MoMa PS1. Lanigan-Schmidt’s work is held in numerous international public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen and the mumok, Vienna. In June 2009, he was honored at the White House by President Barack Obama for his active and courageous participation in the 1969 Stonewall protests.

The exhibition was realised with the kind support of Pavel Zoubok Fine Art.