context…Louis M. Schmidt…009

The Dimensions of Fallacy

Louis M. Schmidt creates trenchantly poetic drawings that probe the underpinnings of humanity at social and philosophical levels. His Dimensions of Fallacy series features works of text, shape, and figure all rendered in brightly colored pencil on black paper. This specific aesthetic tension enables the drawings to act across a diverse subject matter: a single piece can address something as specific as class-biased public policy while also delving deeply into metaphysical questions of individual existence and collective progress.

Louis M. Schmidt, Class War, 2015
Class War, 2015

Schmidt has long held an interest in the idea of narrative; he publishes zines to explore the form directly, and often incorporates text into his artworks. His drawings in this series, however, introduce their narrative focus even beyond the mark-making level. By employing black paper as his background, Schmidt forgoes the traditional beginning of the artist’s process, wherein a “white canvas” is synonymous with a “blank canvas.” Instead, he orients his drawings according to the primordial—whether through a religious or scientific lens, the human story begins in darkness, a void. So, while the use of black in works of art almost always point to the morose, in Schmidt’s work it feels full of potential—a space capable of containing questions not just about the purpose of art, but more broadly about the two undercurrents of any narrative, being and belonging.

Louis M. Schmidt, Hands Holding a Unit, 2015
Hands Holding a Unit, 2015

These questions are perhaps no more evident than in Hands Holding a Unit, which as the title suggests, features a set of hands holding a square. The square itself is reminiscent of a piece of paper, or a small artwork, yet it is only rendered in outline—a kind of frame around the black void beyond it. What does it mean to create a narrative? This work seems to pose the question and a possible answer: it is our desperate attempt to reach (like the hands) into an unknown external reality and make sense of it, if only one small part of it.

At the same time, Schmidt seems keenly aware that the great potential of narrative also imbues it with dangerous power.  In Final Notice from It to You, we find a seated figure wiping away tears while going through a series of overdue bills sent from “It” to “You” at the address “Everywhere.” The work demystifies our conception of narrative and points to its historical and present social reality—that time and time again, it has given total control to the author while completely disenfranchising its subjects.

studio view with Final Notice From It To You, 2017

By looking at our personal and social relationships with narrative, the Dimensions of Fallacy series inherently separates us from it. It allows us the critical distance to engage in existential modes of thought—to consider the human experience and straddle a similar line to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and writer Milan Kundera. We can believe either that the human narrative endlessly repeats itself, or that it never repeats itself; that we’re all tethered to the same fixed cycle, or that we’re tethered to nothing; that we’re doomed to never improve, or that whatever we do—whatever mark we make—holds no ultimate consequence.  By not settling on either side, Schmidt’s drawings give equal agency to the author and viewer, they remind us that narrative is first and first most a construct, and then merely a matter of belief.