Tad Lauritzen Wright’s exhibition “Instructions Included,” on view at David Lusk Gallery in Nashville through October 3, is a genuinely delightful art experience meticulously crafted from wit and imagination. Derived from hobby-level arts and crafts and a bourgeois population’s “discounted sources,” according to Wright’s artist statement, the works in “Instructions Included” elevate a stream-of-consciousness idea to an advanced study of human behavior in 20 step-by-step directives.
A native of San Angelo, Texas, Wright lives and works in Memphis and has long been a purveyor of nontraditional art forms. Wielding a visual language befitting the quirkiest of communicators, Wright offers a shenanigan-spirited installation as the conduit for a light-but-purposeful takeaway that will resonate with patrons seeking transparency in an oftentimes opaque creative climate.
Visible from the gallery’s entrance is a wall of 20-by-16-inch panels, stacked four high and five across. The black-and-white text and drawings aren’t quite distinguishable from afar, but the exhibition title tips me off to the game at hand. A lime-green garden hose, tied in one big knot, and the remnants of a melted snowman—a three-tiered plaster sculpture and replicas of a carrot, stick, and pieces of coal on a white enamel puddle—sit on the polished concrete floor. A cloud roped to an anchor and a giant tree-shaped car freshener hang from the rafters. On another wall, a large canvas is covered with random multicolor letters, and a pine tree trunk wears a sweater. In a neighboring room, the shadow of a welded-metal tree shaped “to look like pencils,” according to its instructions, creates a beautiful pattern across the wall.
Confusion reigned until I approached the wall up close, where the text on the panels becomes legible. “Tie your neighbor’s hose in knots to save water”; “Tie a cloud to an anchor”; and “Paint a landscape wordfind to reveal the evolution of the natural world,” are among 20 directives that each occupy a panel and correspond with one of the surrounding artworks, creating something of a scavenger hunt.
“Instructions Included” first compels the viewer through sheer curiosity to closely examine each work, then rewards with an exhibition layered with practical experimentation and, best of all, humor.
Elaine Slayton Akin is an arts writer and nonprofit professional in Nashville. She is currently the development coordinator at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Last year, Akin relocated to Nashville from Little Rock, Arkansas, where she worked as the communications manager at the Thea Foundation and was a board member for Number magazine.