by Alex Moore, Curator, Indianapolis Art Center

In looking at their catalog of artworks, it’s impossible not to sense the palpable need to create at the core of these two artists. Joe and Will created hundreds of works in a range and scope of media that’s a rarity. In a matter of about fifteen years, Joe and Will developed remarkable bodies of work in portraiture, landscape, and abstraction – each theme filled with complex investigations in diverse media.

The artists’ careers commenced, while still in high school, with a deep-dive into the topic of identity through various portraiture studies. This era produced a number of the Lawrance’s masterworks including Will’s Big Face and Joe’s American Vision Winner. Each piece, respectively, received significant acclaim with gallery recognition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C. Both artists flexed their abilities to capture the photorealistic likeness of their subject. Yet, there’s another quality present in these works that’s transformative – it’s a power that transcends the formal qualities of the subject and cuts to the core of something central to the subject’s essence.

These honed skills are the foundation for Joe and Will to begin exploration of surrealist and expressionist ideas. The artists begin to make work that is increasingly conceptual. Fundamental to this expansion is a thread of curiosity, a sense of humor, and a sense of experimentation that can be traced throughout their formal art training. Joe graduated from The Cooper Union Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture in 2010, and Will graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008.

By the time each artist graduates from college, their ambitions are deeply abstract. This shift to radical abstraction can also be contextualized by the emotional struggles each artist experienced through their college years. Both artists struggled with anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Making artwork was the outlet for attempting to make sense of this pain.

The ranging and dynamic body of non-representational works that both artists developed capture vivid emotions through their expressionist marks, intense colors, and undulating movement. While there are visual commonalities between Joe and Will’s abstract works, the differences between the two artists’ approaches gleam in contrast to one another. Joe’s training in architecture leaves an imprint on his work and finds him deeply invested in perspective and scale. Joe directly embeds many of his abstracted works with pieces of architecture, establishing an undeniable figure-ground relationship. Will tends to leave his viewer floating in a sea of reverberating color. These psychologically-charged landscapes reflect, in a way, what Joe and Will saw when their eyes were closed and they turned inwards. These abstract works are the final body of work by each artist.

The artistic journey of Joe and Will Lawrance is a remarkable saga of expression. While the subjects and themes of their works seem to rapidly evolve, Joe and Will consistently have an unfiltered honesty to their method of expression. Their works are intimate, playful, and emotionally raw. Joe and Will’s stories reflect the complexities of the human experience, and these complexities are relatable to any viewer who connects with the extraordinary objects that they created. Their artwork facilitate an ongoing dialogue between the artists and audiences across time, allowing their creative talents to resound well into the future.