Jonathan Lasker’s newest work, currently on view at Cheim & Read in New York City through February 13, 2016, continues to explore the ways in which paintings are constructed and perceived. Employing three consistent components —figure, ground, and line—Lasker’s careful arrangement of abstracted elements challenges one’s usual reaction to non-representational painting, positioning the viewer in an unexpected discourse with form and space, foreground and background, objecthood and artifice. As Lasker describes, his paintings are meant to “make the viewer see him or herself in the act of viewing,” drawing attention to “how we construct a picture in our mind.”
By positioning various forms and patterns— through repetition, segmentation, and layering—to visually recede or advance in pictorial space, Lasker composes illusionary “pictures” which are at once ambiguous and decisive. Recurring figural motifs repeat throughout the paintings, acting as a sort of abstract visual vocabulary. Paralleling linguistic concepts, Lasker uses these “signs” to set up various dialogues and spatial relationships which the viewer, as if following clues, is intended to decipher.
Often, a thickly rendered motif is echoed by its separate, less tactile outline; the two forms reverberate together but seem to exist on different planes, much as the missing piece of a puzzle is mimicked by its empty shape. In other works, the prominent inclusion of Lasker’s signature or initials heightens the tension between illusion and reality: dimensionality is mocked by the stubborn literalness of the painting’s two-dimensional surface.