Annette Lemieux: PAUL KASMIN GALLERY
Pincus-Witten, Robert, Artforum International
Annette Lemieux's equivocal place among those contemporary artists drawn to reminiscence--let's call them "nostalgics"--is far from commensurate with her prominence in what might be termed Feminist Conceptualism. This obliquity owes something to the fact that she works " off scene," in Boston (despite her continuing New York presence in galleries of note), and also to her attraction to cryptic, elusive themes. Lemieux's political sarcasm is masked by sweetness and reductivist abstraction, and her infinite links of insinuation are a deterrent to facile acceptance, unwanted to begin with. Her references at times seem so teasing and premeditatedly capricious as to defy comprehension. But the artist's commitment to the bare bones of Minimalism's rectangle, circle, and grid is rarely placed in jeopardy.
The present circumstances are no exception. "The Last Suppa," as the recent exhibition was discomfitingly titled, is trash talk, a cracker-barrel pronunciation of "the last supper." Table for One (all works cited, 2010), a red-and-white-checked tablecloth tondo in the shape of the host, exemplified her formal concerns while also, granting the larger Christological setting of the show as a whole, serving as a reference to the Eucharist, the sacrament inaugurated at that portentous meal.
In her past work, Lemieux has proved herself as partial to the Great Depression myths perpetuated in the day's radio broadcasts and black-and-white movies as she is horrified by the postwar depredations of the New England farm and mill town as they drift off into bedroom suburbs. Born in Virginia but raised in dying Torrington--hence embittered working class and lapsed Roman Catholic--she is one acutely class-conscious Connecticut Girl. (I once described her as Agnes Martin with an ax to grind.) The metanarrative of her oeuvre is the plucky, independent woman: the single mom surviving on minimum wage, welfare, or alimony and still yearning (perhaps) for her big lug, either divorced or gone off to a Roy Lichtenstein world of macho warfare--to Korea-Vietnam-Kuwait -Iraq-Afghanistan-"On Terror" conflicts colorized by the cinematic duplicity and gung-ho of the Greatest Generation. In the end, Mom's guy is, of course, her daughter's dad, MIA. All this and more is implicit or explicit in the snapshots and period objects incorporated into Lemieux's work, which, when not expressed as painting incorporating photography, is often met as assemblage. …