Certain Things in a Certain Way

Certain Things in a Certain Way

An Interview with Jonathan Lasker by Robert Enright and Meeka Walsh for Border Crossings Magazine - August 2016

I can think of few contemporary artists who have been as successful in developing and employing a repertoire of shapes, forms and motifs as the American painter, Jonathan Lasker. Throughout a rigorous and intense practice now in its fourth decade, he has refined a pictorial language and visual syntax that is uniquely his own. A painting by Jonathan Lasker is unmistakable. What is most intriguing about his shapes and linear forms is their lastingness and flexibility. As he intimates in a 2010 painting called The Rules of the Game Do Not Change, the procedures available to make a painting are set, as are the component parts available for that making. Lasker admits that nothing is ever abandoned; things are only temporarily set aside, and in any new painting an old visual trope could be easily reprised. “All the stuff could come back,” he says in the following interview. “When I’m coming up with the idea for the painting, there is definitely a lot of poking about. This vocabulary can create a lot of pictures; if I go into one thematic form or another, it somehow generates new pictures.”

Lasker recognizes that his vocabulary is “a recurring and consistent language.” In a 2014 painting, he calls the components of this language Pictorial Objects; it is commonplace in his aesthetic domain that the painting names, and then is named by, its content. In this case, the objects are five kinds of black lines in various thicknesses and applications, from scriggly automatic drawing to carefully rendered bars of dense pigment. These linear variations set the stage (he is a visual dramatist) for a pair of shapes, one pink and the other turquoise, that are almost heads, each covered in a weave of interlocking lines. Pictorial Objects hints at the possibility of transforming into Pictorial Portraits. Lasker is aware of the way in which viewers tend to turn his objects and figures into things. He points to an unfinished painting in his studio as an example of this tendency towards a kind of soft anthropomorphism. “That pink form is not figurative but it is a figure within the painting.”

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