Los Angeles

Jörg Lozek


It was hard at first to figure out just what was going on in the four large paintings of interiors that Leipzig-based artist Jörg Lozek presented, along with four portraits, in his recent US solo debut at Sandroni Rey. As whirlwinds of painted and drawn pattern—the surfaces depicted include wallpaper, flooring, and upholstery—jumbled with hard-edged swatches of poured color, they negotiated a tempestuous push-pull, becoming a sort of manic, quasi-illusionist take on Frank Stella’s late ’60s abstractions. But the compositional cacophony ultimately yields to spatial order, thanks in large part to the vaguely glamorous lads, one per painting, who are shown variously dozing off with a book, reading in a rocking chair, writing in a journal, and gazing out of a window. Centrally placed, these figures make an effective contrast with Lozek’s renderings of angular attic rooms sparsely furnished with items suggestive of modern design in its more baroquely bastardized incarnations.

The casually stoic figures are surrounded by manifestations of energy, from the busy folds in their clothing to the rugs and bedding that look ready to spring to life and scurry away to the clash of abutting and overlapping patterns, colors, and textures that collectively define Lozek’s spaces as at once derelict and vital. His handling of light is brilliant, and his employment of line and directional manipulation of paint are so convincingly animated that the planes of floor, wall, and ceiling seem to have zipped in from different directions and settled into place around the sitter. The dynamism of Lozek’s technique creates the sense that his subjects inhabit a mysteriously energized state. As much as Lozek’s washy, wavy areas of paint define distressed surfaces, they also suggest atmospheric voids, as if the walls and ceiling were windows onto luminous, ethereal netherworlds, or screens onto which the young men, lost in thought, project their states of mind.

Lozek’s dazzling play of abstraction and illusionism results in spaces that read simultaneously as claustrophobic hovels and expanding mindscapes, and might well be both. His figures appear to confront their isolation by turning inward, only to project themselves outwards into other dimensions or levels of consciousness. Like the best of an emerging generation of Leipzig painters, Lozek is historically informed: His work displays the influence of a broad range of artists, from Georges Braque to Claes Oldenburg, Anselm Kiefer to Jörg Immendorff. Lozek resolves these influences, not through pastiche, but via a fusion that feels fresh and relevant—an all-but-seamless mix of style and emotion.

Less rewarding are four portraits of youths executed in an awkward mixture of self-consciously competent realism and halfhearted Expressionism. Though there’s something uncomfortably alluring about these visages and the repressed adolescent rage implied by their flushed, translucent, seemingly melting skin, the works feel unfinished and rely on easy tricks. Only when they reach the sort of complexity displayed by the interior scenes that carried the show will these kids be anything to reckon with.

Christopher Miles