Caleb J. Lyons’s practice focuses on cultural detritus; mining and resurrecting the presence of melancholy and absurdity in cultural production from (very) recent history. His series of paintings, Real Pirates (a reference to piracy as a form of appropriation), and a related grouping of ceramics take on “high art” and address a turn to what could be considered an aesthetics of failure in contemporary abstract practices, exemplified by cheap materials and unskilled craft.
Lyons’s work employs the formal strategies of this “careless and wounded aesthetic,” borrowing passages and marks from the art of contemporary painters and sculptors. Yet Lyons’s works—the paintings framed in brightly colored wood and the oversized pipe-like ceramics planted with cacti and succulents—have a kind of lopsided beauty and strange appeal that belies their preoccupation with failure. Considered together, the paintings and ceramics seem to embody our own unease with consumerism, finish, and quality while pointing to our cultural love affair with the underdog.