Jonathan Lasker

Galleria Gian Enzo Sperone

Jonathan Lasker presented four large canvases here—Digital Affection, The Politics of Reality, Histrionic Affinity, Fake Freak, all 1988—one on each wall of the gallery. Employing a dry, peremptory, affirmative language, the pieces show him pushing to the limits of the coldest geometricism. His structures end up being so taut that they move beyond abstraction. It is difficult to find harmonious relationships in them, or to discover their historical sources. Lasker’s work seems more linguistic than pictorial, to the point that its structural arrangements bring to mind the obsessive and repetitive sonorities of Steve Reich. As in Reich’s music, Lasker’s signs and structures attract and repel each other, their repetition intensifying a magnetic tension that goes well beyond the limits of any single work and constructs a network of relationships from painting to painting. Like computerized images, the elements in his canvases are not harmonized but are juxtaposed, one against the other, without losing, but rather exalting, their own identity.

Lasker doesn’t seem to have any nostalgia for history; his is a painting of the present, the result of an immediate synthesis of impulses and images of today’s world. For him, the act of painting is like an unexpected occurrence, an uncalculated surfacing of disorder, extraneous to that perfect, highly defined cosmos contained within the canvas. This is evident in both Digital Affection and Fake Freak, where the arrangement of the signs is unexpectedly obscured by a stain of painting, which carries with it all the traces of the brushstroke and of the medium. Lasker’s entire body of work seems to thrive upon a certain incompatibility: the theoretical incompatibility that exists between painting and the idea of painting, and the visual incompatibility that emerges between the background color and the weaving of signs, between the material of the stains and the metallic, taut, textured brushstroke.

Lasker seems to have reached a limit within post-Modern culture. He uses painting, but deprived of the consolation of the past, he leaves it floating like a cultural survivor, a sorrow that no longer has a dialogue with the technical, almost hostile space determined by geometry. The result is that Lasker looks toward the future, delineating the shadow line onto which the ’90s face. And he draws it on the background of a technical, absolutely pragmatic, American universe, far from the diachronic means by which Europe has gone back to painting in the ’80s. Perhaps this is why Lasker makes no effort to justify his painting through painting, but rather feels compelled to restore to us a direct and immediate synthesis of the present world, directed toward a perception that lives by technological habit.

Alessandra Mammì

Translated from the Italian by Meg Shore.