Critics’ Picks

  • Lavar Munroe, Virgin and Child, 2020, acrylic, spray paint, mousetraps, bubble gum, pearls, bath towel, and thread on canvas, 70 1/2 x 40 1/2".

    Lavar Munroe, Virgin and Child, 2020, acrylic, spray paint, mousetraps, bubble gum, pearls, bath towel, and thread on canvas, 70 1/2 x 40 1/2".

    Los Angeles

    Lavar Munroe

    M+B
    612 North Almont Drive
    December 5, 2020–January 16, 2021

    Lavar Munroe’s first solo exhibition on the West Coast is a concise affair, comprised of just three paintings, though each one is large: roughly six feet tall and four feet wide. Made on unstretched canvases, they are intentionally raw, cut into with holes, layered with thick lumps of paint and haphazardly stapled canvas scraps, and glued with all manner of items, including mousetraps, beads, and plastic bags. The warm-weather attire worn by Munroe’s characters seems to locate his narratives in the Caribbean—albeit a fantastical version of it—where the artist grew up and still lives part-time.

    Every painting includes a father figure and a young boy. Munroe distills the recurring subject of parent-child relationships most explicitly in Virgin and Child, 2020. Here, the Madonna is replaced by a seated man, with his son on his lap, who is just a little bit older than a toddler. The pair are haloed and connected by a rosary; each one holds an end of it between their lips. A rooster, a traditional symbol of Christ, stands between the man’s legs, with its beak almost touching the boy’s dangling foot. In all three works, the figures are the elements most clearly defined, rendered in fluorescent red and existing in a whirlwind of moving pieces—including a basketball, verdant plants, and hanging lightbulbs—that flit in and out of legibility. This figure-ground relationship comes across as Munroe’s meditation on family survival within a surrounding social world of unpredictability and potential chaos. Munroe’s settings are less specific, real environments than they are allegorical mélanges of memory, symbols, and sundry personal associations, brought to the surface by the artist’s reflections on his Bahamian childhood and his current identity as a father.