Mernet Larsen, Sit-ups Leg-lifts, 2012
Acrylic, string, and tracing paper on canvas, 46.25 x 60.25 in.
Like most art these days, my introduction to Mernet Larsen’s paintings took place on the internet- either through the endless scroll of tumblr or via another show-announcement email from the gallery, I can’t quite remember when it started. On the screen I saw paintings with figures made of sharp boxy shapes and spaces that were in extreme linear perspective, suggesting an artist who ironically uses retro computer imagery to make faux-funky paintings. I shrugged the paintings off quickly, throwing them onto the pile of digital artists currently making paintings- meaning the paintings would optimally be the same in person as seen online. Luckily for me, Larsen got the chance to prove me wrong. A painting in the Various Small Fires booth at Art Los Angeles Contemporary (January 29 – February 1, 2015) made me swallow my assumptions immediately upon seeing it- in person, the work felt like it didn’t come from digital sensibilities, but from searching within the space of painting (in history, materiality, and presence).
(Please Note: All of the following photos were taken by the author while visiting the show
in an attempt to reveal surface characteristics of the paintings via the internet)
Looking at work on a screen emphasizes the overall image of the work because of its digital bird’s eye view. On screen, Larsen’s works were robbed of their purpose of being explored on a human scale, one on one, with the painting speaking directly to the viewer without mitigation.
In the show, Chainswer, Bicyclist, and Reading in Bed, Larsen is painting from the memory of casual perception or daily observations. We have all experienced the fickleness of memory, especially when it is of mundane fleeting moments. On the subway or at a boring meeting, it is easy for your mind and eyes to wander- not snapping a photographic image of the whole scene but taking it in swiftly, almost generically, with pieces of focus lingering to chew on later. (more…)