Morgan Jesse Lappin

Collages of Contrasting Imagery

By Chris Brunelle

Morgan Jesse Lappin works primarily with collage, creating pieces that combine cute, industrial, pornographic, irreverent, scenic, surreal, and humorous.  With works entitled “Satan’s Bitches” and “The Pussy Family,” you’re not in for your typical fine art ride.  In many ways I’m reminded of the album art indie-rock godfather Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices created.  Many of Lappin’s pieces could be the covers and liner notes for unreleased albums by imaginary bands.  Lappin’s work is playful, subversive, and ultimately quite visually strong.

In “Jambo’s Mambo,” Lappin seamlessly blends black and white pictures of 50’s era ladies with an African tribe all dancing around a tree ceremonially.  Lappin doesn’t seem to be trying to tie the human race together per se in a sort of United Colors of Benetton kind of way, but more probably going for a humorous contrast.

“Beautiful View” depicts illustrations of two women on a plane enjoying the view out the window, which is filled with a porno magazine clipping of a woman spreading her vagina in extreme close-up.  It’s a bit jarring and would probably offend a whole lot of people.  Lappin should not be dismissed as lowbrow or pornographic immediately, as the message of the painting essentially celebrates the human body even if it is in a humorous and irreverent way.

In another piece entitled, “The Pussy Family,” Lappin takes the same type of magazine clippings and pastes them over the faces of a black and white family portrait.  Those with the tendency to be offended who made it through “Beautiful View” and are still onboard with Lappin, may very well hop off at this point.  I personally don’t find it offensive or demeaning to women but just kind of silly, dirty, and absurd.  I can see many people interpreting it differently.  In cases like that, I have the tendency to applaud artists who push buttons and don’t seem to do so with malice or agenda.

“Wednesday Afternoon,” is Lappin’s final piece containing pornographic imagery.  The picture shows an illustrated scene of kids snacking and watching a television that has a photo of a woman licking her own breast.  The look on the children’s faces displays the repulsion/attraction paradigm.  With this collage, Lappin uncharacteristically depicts a realistic scenario.  Children of a certain age discovering the mysteries of the human body and sexuality in unexpected ways is a rite of passage that happens all the time.  Many boys’ first connection with sexuality often comes in the form of a father’s porno stash or a magazine a friend was able to get a hold of.  Lappin captures the simultaneous innocence and loss of innocence of the children.  He successfully communicates how graphic those images seem upon early viewing.  The title fits perfectly as it is the time when the parents aren’t home yet and the children can experience these findings without censor.

“Hooked on Smack” takes comic book bubbles of a recovering heroin addicts monologue positioned perfectly over a late 70’s or early 80’s photo of a little girl in a lifeguard chair talking to fellow children by a pool.  Lappin’s once again going for dark humor with a juxtaposition that doesn’t seem to fit in reality but is executed effortlessly.

“Butter Kids I” and “Butter Kids II” both depict illustrated children’s’ heads atop monarch butterflies in full color with black and white scenes of suburban landscape and large ships in the background.  It’s twisted yet adorable.  The color meets black and white and fantastical nature of the content reminds of The Wizard Of Oz.  The children in these photos also represent an innocence and style reminiscent of that time period.  When the 50’s met the 60’s, there was a clash of ideas and a loss of purity that is more obvious in both of these works.  It’s a good segue-way into Lappin’s mentality though as you start to see this theme in all of his collages.  There’s a contrast between innocent and corrupted, assimilated and tribal, safe and absurd, color and grayscale that marks his work and creates a thematic tension.  This theme is not obvious at first and you may easily just think he’s a jokester with a knack for visuals.  The ideas he explores have been rich digging ground for art of all mediums since the beginning of time and Lappin has found his own unique way to express them.  Enter Morgan J. Lappin’s world at http://morganlappin.com and see what you think.

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