For this year’s Gallery Weekend Berlin, Galerie Thomas Schulte will open an exhibition with new paintings by New York-based artist Jonathan Lasker. At the end of the 1970s, Lasker developed a language of abstract forms, which today still characterizes his distinctive style. In response to the lyrical abstraction, color field painting, and minimalism of the US of the 1970s, Lasker felt that painting was confronted with the challenge of artistic reinvention. At that time, he set about to develop his self-referential system of sign-like forms and colors, which he still varies and reformulates today. His constantly growing oeuvre simultaneously manifests the vitality as well as the validity of contemporary painting and is considered as pioneering in this regard by younger generations.
What presents itself to the viewer are colorful and precisely composed canvases, bringing together unconventional forms that question the traditional perception of foreground and background and the relationship between surface and figure. His pictorial means range from monochrome surfaces and scriptural drawings to his typical impasto, three-dimensionally protruding color applications, which create tension with the flat surface of the background. The confluence of different forms interacting on the large canvases and in some places connecting like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle is particularly appealing: “I often think of my paintings as a form of image kit […], which offers components of paintings as clues pointing the viewer, not to a finished narrative […], but rather to a self-awareness of how one construes a painting.” Lasker’s goal is “to take the observer to the boundary of narration and—without going beyond that boundary—place him in a state of pure pictoriality.”
In his work Ideal Interior from 2018, Lasker first placed the bars and other forms on the canvas with a palette knife in a thick layer before applying the red background. The red, which was painted over with a discreetly transparent layer of purple, is still visible on the edges of the forms. These traces index the painting process, allowing the viewer to trace back the construction of the painting and clearly construe the composition of the picture. Obvious content is avoided in favor of a strongly associative and direct effect. It is about a structure and a play between color and form. Lasker often draws parallels to music: “There is something that relates to a basic rock ’n’ roll or Jazz trio in these paintings. The three elements in my paintings—figure, ground and line—are almost like the three elements in a band, bass, drums and lead instrument. Those elements can take on different characteristics and say different things in conversation with one another.”
Although Lasker often works on a large scale, he uses miniature paintings to develop new compositions. His maquettes show his devotion to planning. The artist then reenacts the studies as large-format paintings. This approach illustrates how Lasker turns the organic, subjective, and gestural visual language of painting into an intellectual process. The visual language of art of the past is replaced by a determined process, where accomplishing an effective picture supercedes painting as an act.
In addition to the works’ incredible painterly quality, a phenomenological element of determining a picture in space becomes tangible: “[…] the imagery refers to other things, gives you pictures, triggers the imagination, the memory of something and creates a fantasy… They deal with the physical reality of paint on canvas and illusion simultaneously… and they also give you the body. Your own body.”