Magazine article Artforum International

Laeh Glenn

Magazine article Artforum International

Laeh Glenn

Article excerpt

HOW SHOULD A PAINTING BEHAVE? The dreamy yet sober canvases of Laeh Glenn seem predicated on this question. The Los Angeles-based artist asks why a painting should exist at all, what its motivation should be, and how one should relate to it--particularly at a moment when images circulate so quickly and casually, and when painting itself seems to exist somewhere between code and canvas. She extracts the medium's genres--still life, portrait, nude, geometric abstraction--to coolly linger in and wonder at its protocols. Through her distillation of these pictorial archetypes, she reveals new and ever-shiftier boundaries between the image and the world.

Landscaping, 2015, is typical: It is a simple composition in which flat fields of color are molded into sky, hills, foliage, and water. Bold black lines delineate each of the picture's features while fitting poorly to those features' edges. The "look" is nostalgic yet eerily placeless, bringing to mind obsolete hand-inked comic-book illustrations or even Microsoft Office's catalogue of clip art, that enduringly strange standby of late-1990s and early-2000s design. Moreover, Landscaping tells us nothing about the specificities of location or the act of grooming nature, functioning instead as a generic stand-in for the action of a kind of picture making. That is, by painting a landscape, she is landscaping--just as one could be still-lifing, self-portraiting, or nuding. The work flows from a transposable verb, a test drive of genre.

In most of Glenn's pictures, "subject matter" gets simplified to its most basic graphic components. In Mums in a Vase (Blue), 2012, and Four for 4 #2, 2014--which share a still-life composition that recurs in other works--representational elements are devoid of depth: A surface is marked by a simple horizon line; petals are suggested by muted chiaroscuro; shadow is formed by apertures and negative space. Glenn's treatment of shadow brings interesting personality to her work; there is humor in her treatment of spatial illusion, and her shadowy breaches of pictorial space recall Artschwager's blps and Baldessari's dots, pixels, and holes. Her simplified images verge on cartooning--which, as artists such as Carroll Dunham, Raymond Pettibon, and Philip Guston have taught us, is a great way to question the authority of painting--while retaining the impressions of digital design, its fills and drop shadows. Untitled, 2013, for example, depicts an arrangement of eight cubic objects--think Tetris--which hovers against a black ground, while Flowers, 2015, displays its titular subject distorted by pixelation. In spite of the velocity and immateriality suggested by these paintings, they are resolutely concrete things, created in a slow, considered manner: Until only recently, Glenn painted on sanded wooden panel, laying down a surface of gesso, then applying up to fifteen layers of oil paint to create a smooth, hermetic surface. As each oil layer took several days to dry, the process of finishing one small painting was long and deliberate, even time-based. Mistakes could easily be wiped away until the final composition was hand-touched to perfection; if an accidental mark remained, it was a well-considered move.

Each of Glenn's disparate paintings attempts to unravel what style might mean--how it might knit together the high and the low, the reified and the real. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.