As an artist and critic, Thomas Lawson (now dean of the School of Art at CalArts) was central to debates about the viability of painting at the turn of the 1980s. Yet his work has seldom been shown on the West Coast, making this recent exhibition of paintings, most of which were produced over the past two years, a rare opportunity to see how his practice and its politics have held up.
Lawson’s new canvases are characterized by deadpan mottled surfaces and muted, at times grating, color combinations. Often based on maps, they render seas and continents as abstract patches of texture and tone. Still, echoes of ﬂaglike shapes allude to a territorial world and offer an unsettling hint of its continuing, unpredictable environmental and political changeability. Several canvases make use of cartographic conventions such as the Mercator projection, a method of ﬂattening the globe onto a two-dimensional
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