Critics’ Picks

Lenz Geerk, Untitled, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 59 x 78 3/4".

Lenz Geerk, Untitled, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 59 x 78 3/4".

Los Angeles

Lenz Geerk

Roberts Projects
442 South La Brea Avenue
September 14–October 12, 2019

“The color is repellant, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others,” wrote Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892, in the story “The Yellow Wallpaper.” In the largest woeful painting in Lenz Geerk’s exhibition, Untitled, 2019, the walls’ hues may be just as lurid and maddening, ranging from sinister buttercup to jaundiced saffron, filling the room with a soft, staid menace. Edging away from the right edge of the canvas, a woman stands with one arm grasping the other in the universal posture of the restrainedly disturbed. Her trim black hair, almost shaved on one side and bobbed on the other, frames a face deeply blank, with dark eyes under thin elegant eyebrows and an angled nose pointing down toward colorless lips marked only by the shadow of their parting. She seems to guard an abyss of melancholy, trauma, and perhaps ennui. Within the picture, a painting on the other side of a threshold displays a limp modernist squiggle. Only the white molding, pallid beige carpet, and single strip of shadow in the doorway otherwise describe her environs. Nothing is happening, but the tension is oddly riveting.

Elsewhere in Geerk’s quintet of works, a half-naked woman in a pearl necklace is pictured standing next to a painting of a large, gleaming pearl; a man with a suitcase at his feet gazes despondently through a doorway into a darkened room; and a dour couple poses in balletic contretemps as he leans forward over a table and she back into her chair—a single, almost comedic croissant (pictured again, larger, in the fifth canvas) sits on the table between them. Rough-skinned and softly colored, these paintings remain cryptic no matter how close you lean in or how hard you stare.