at Cheim and Read
Jonathan Lasker at Cheim and Read
by Jennifer Riley - April 19, 2007
Over the past three decades, Jonathan Lasker has invented and refined a distinct style of abstract painting, which he conceived as a response to minimalism and what he considered the emptying out of the picture plane. Early on, one of his goals was to make an abstract painting that could be viewed literally, while simultaneously containing characteristics that belonged to earlier generations of painting such as metaphor, pictorialism, and some components of narrative.
Mr. Lasker's achievement has been made with the essentials of figure, ground, and line, and by balancing fundamental elements of abstraction with aspects of the observable world. And, in the current exhibition with Cheim & Read, he is creating work at the top of his game.
The show contains seven heroically scaled paintings and their seven small studies. These color rich works have varying degrees of resonance with landscape, interior, and portraiture. "The Quotidian and the Question" (2007) suggests a landscape in which the entire ground is painted with a pattern-field of narrow looping lines. The application of paint is thin; the stroke appears consistent and slow. A thickly painted linear, plantlike form is on the right side of the painting, opposite a solid yellow form that sits directly in front of a scribbly darker form. These forms are set in a magenta colored zone and rest on a horizon line. The lower third is divided into irregularly shaped, interlocking blocks of green, brown, and orange. The result is a visceral and witty clutter within which larger familial forms are poised to interact.
Mr. Lasker's carefully chosen forms are primarily abstract and trigger associations with archetypal forms such as a figure, a head, or a face in profile. They propose a unique sense of narrative, not one borrowed from art history but one constructed by the artist, to be completed by the viewer.
Mr. Lasker is verbally and visually expressive about the many ways paintings can be read. And to his credit, the work joyfully reflects his belief in the ongoing creative possibilities of painting.