Menzies Art Brands



Contemporary artists living and working today are bored of the saying everything that can be done in painting, has already been done.1 Abstraction is a broad genre, in painting there are many strains and endless possibilities. The word literally means drawn from and thus acknowledges itself as an article removed from the subject matter in the first instance. Its aim is not to present itself as reality it is employed as a mechanism to play with that that makes up our reality through the use of shapes, forms, line, colour, composition and elements that function
as a vehicle of the artists expression. How far the artist can push these boundaries is only limited by their imagination and their materials.

Prominent American Abstract artist, Jonathan Lasker, has been at the forefront of Modern Abstraction painting since the mid-1980s. His energetic, contemplative and powerful works are held in many notable public and private collections all over the world and he is regarded by critics and peers as a true painters painter. His ability to remain relevant in such a multifaceted and ever-shifting realm is an outstanding achievement in itself. In Assertive Absence 1999, he has methodically engineered a sense of disengagement which forces the viewer to acknowledge the work in its physical condition, as paint on a surface, and discourages preconceptions for interpretation. Once the viewer arrives at this point, they can begin to have a meaningful discourse with the image. Laskers ability to achieve this level of engagement wherein his audience has their own unique relationship to each painting is evident in his prevalence as an abstract painter for so many decades. The artist states At all times, [painting] is a singular image in an age of excessive proliferation and debasement. I view painting as a moral victory.2

In 1986 the artist came into the limelight with his large, bright and complex compositional paintings with three solo exhibitions held at Tibor De Nagy Gallery, New York, Galeria Massimo Audiello, New York and Galerie Michael Werner, Germany, at which he received high acclaim from critics and the public as a leader in rebelling against the mainstream Action painting the planning, process and construction of his painting style being so evident in the outcome rather than the focus being on the actual act of painting.

Since then he has consistently exhibited and been a highly sought-after artist by collectors and galleries alike. Despite popular styles of abstraction becoming increasingly conceptual, Lasker remained engaged with the possibilities of painting as the central focus of his work. Simultaneously experimenting and playing with, whilst rebelling against, movements like pop art, minimalism, action painting and expressionism.

Assertive Absence 1999 is a strong example of the bold and instructive way in which Lasker uses line and forms, like Pop Art, making the viewer unaware of the work's creator. They are not distinctive to the artists hand and give the impression that they could have been made by anyone, or that the artist had an assembly line of workers placing lines and marks at his instruction. Like Minimalism, Lasker employs flat grounds and detached mark making, but unlike Pop and Minimalism, he uses composition. He plans his compositions in small maquette-like drawings and upscales them to canvases. The minimalists avoided composition because they rejected its European heritage, and although Lasker has drawn much inspiration from the Minimalist aesthetic, his works are conceived and planned leaving no room for improvisation nor to error or luck.

Laskers works are held in notable collections such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and The British Library, London. Solo exhibitions include shows at MAMAC Muse dart Moderne et Contemporain de Saint-tienne, France (2015), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, United States (2010) and the Stedelijk Museum, Netherlands (1998).

1. Mashek, J., Abstract Ironies, The New Leader, 20 October 1986, p.21
2. Mays, J.B., Beyond overcoming: notes on abstract painting. C: International Contemporary Art, Spring 2003, p.12

Tessa Adele Dorman BFA,
MA (Art History and Theory)

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