Full disclosure: I am a current grad student at Brooklyn College and David Lantow is an adjunct art instructor there. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never run into him—myself being an art history major—yet there is something distinct about his work that reminds me of other artists associated with the school. (See previous blogs about Brooklyn College artists here and here and decide for yourself.)

Lantow is also associated with Pierogi Gallery, in Williamsburg, whose curation of psychedelic art and artists I’ve shown a special affinity for in the past. Lantow dropped off a handful of new prints and drawings at Pierogi this year—for their famous flat files—and I figured it was high time to write him up.

What about his art stands out exactly? For one thing: its sense of imagination does. Lantow works in a variety of mediums—from painting to drawing, to printmaking and design—yet his style is contiguous, mostly for its otherworldly creatures, equal parts abstraction and science fiction.

Early drawings, like “Go-Go” (below), show a distinct influence of Schiele and German Expressionism, while newer works are more meta-surrealist. Woodcuts and pencil drawings sometimes feel like outtakes from Howl’s Moving Castle, or from Tim Burton’s  The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories. At other times they almost look like illustrations from some antique biology tome.

“Oti Color,” a woodprint (below), is a great example of Lantow’s blending of these high and low-brow forms; its expressionist-style room is claustrophobic and fantastical—a hybrid of both the haunted mind and the free imagination. Its central figure could be something out of a sci-fi movie, or a character in a Kafka short. What he is not is political, and that rings true for all of Lantow’s work.

In many artists, especially those courting the elitist gallery buyer, such apolitical leanings could be a sign of weakness. Lantow’s work also lacks the kind of danger that might one-day transform him into a sexy contemporary art-celebrity. His work is heady and smart, and will probably always appeal to those of a certain taste. Yet there is real value here. His imaginary creatures are above the socio-political fray, but not above the harsh realities of life, which says a lot for Lantow’s ability to drill down to the core, when in fact he’s not painting or drawing real things. Then again, what artist is?

Religious figures, no matter how realitistically-rendered, are but dramatizations; so are the best of landscapes and tempest scenes. Indeed, it was Nietzsche who said that all good things are closely related to evil. With art, we count on the unreal to give us a sense of reality. Here’s your daily dosage. (Brian Chidester)



“Oti Color”