Stephen Lapthisophon

Stephen Lapthisophon

Stephen Lapthisophon

Visiting Assistant Professor
M.F.A., The School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Stephen Lapthisophon is an American artist and educator working in the field of conceptual art, critical theory, and disability studies.

Lapthisophon received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1979. His early work combined poetry, performance, sound art, and visual arts with postmodern philosophical concerns. He was also influenced by the legacy of the Situationists, who sought to make everyday life a focus of artistic activity.

Lapthisophon has taught at Columbia College in Chicago, the School of the Art Institute, and the University of Texas at Dallas. He currently teaches art and art history at The University of Texas at Arlington.

In 1994 Lapthisophon suffered a major deterioration of his vision because of an optic nerve disease, and became legally blind after intensive medical treatment. His subsequent work as an installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist and sound artist has been marked by this experience. Much of his work comments on, and seeks to redress, the over-emphasis on the sense of sight in aesthetic culture.

"I use my own blindness as a figure for the ways we interpret the world through our own specific framing mechanisms. I have also been more and more drawn to create pieces involving a commentary on the sensory world as understood through food, cuisine, cooking, and interaction through food and the art audience. My recent cooking projects have allowed me to speak to all the senses and examine the interaction of our sensory processes."

Food has been the subject of his recent installations, for example at a Berlin gallery called ZAGREUS Projekt in 2008, and at a 2009 show in San Antonio, but it has also been one of his artistic concerns since even before the onset of his blindness.

In Lapthisophon's works, found objects, written texts and sound recordings are arranged in a way that allows "layers of meanings, allusions and accumulate" in the mind of the gallery-goer.  In his 2000 installation "Defense d'afficher", two large walls were erected in the gallery space and covered with fragments of found media, photos, and texts. One reviewer in Artforum called it an "overload of simultaneously public and personalized cultural shards." The juxtaposition of fragments of personal, cultural, and social history can be seen in his 2005 book Hotel Terminus. This interest in juxtaposing fragments extends to many of his installations, which frequently contain found objects like old eye charts, posters and graffiti slogans. Lapthisophon's other work includes sound recordings, site-specific installations, performances, radio broadcasts, books, lectures, and drawings improvised on walls and framed in exhibitions.

In 2008 Lapthisophon was awarded the prestigious Wynn Newhouse Award for artists with disabilities. In his statement upon receiving this award, Lapthisophon said, "Through investigation of issues of permanence and change in site-specific installations, I hope to...break down the barriers between where the work of art ends and everyday life begins."