Lauren Beck: Miasma from the Well of Loneliness




This show's title tells you all you need to know about the almost polar opposite elements of morbidity and sexuality that run throughout the exhibition. But it is not so necessary to know or understand the artist's specific intentions to sense the import of the art offered here. After all, work of this caliber will stand alone, separate from any overall narrative or intention. Lauren Beck is a wizard with watercolor.

Her handling of her base medium, watercolor, is coolly balanced with touches of acrylic, oil and enamel in the strange Alien Probe (2006, pictured). Here, we see the subject being violated in mind, body and spirit by a gaggle of fastidious worm-like beings as she sinks down into a soupy green liquid. As a result, this young woman the artist is compelled to paint seems empty and devoid of life, even though the work is so painterly and rich. The modulation of the greens, and the way in which the odd composition plays off of the queerness of the situation, really got my attention. The result is substantially intensified by the multicolored bursts of light in the jet black sky, and the way in which the various mental stages of her development seem to be projected out of her head like beacons in the night into a mesmerizing vortex of colors and loops. And it may have been my imagination, but I thought I saw fishes swimming in that green pool, which, when combined with the worm-like forms, adds a very curious twist to this science fiction tale.

The centerpiece of the show is Under the Pyramids (2007), an epic work that pits the concept of mummification against the awkwardness of socialization. This very strange combination is made more potent with sure brushwork and solid color theory. I particularly enjoyed the rendering of the rope that binds half of the mummies, which when combined with the geometric, cut paper stand of trees on a far hill side draws the eye from back to front, and right to left. The artist herself appears as a garter belt-wearing sexpot in a series of images on exhibition in The Exhibition Hall That Time Forgot (2006), another stellar work that can both confound and delight the critic in all of us.  - D. Dominick Lombardi

Miasma from the Well of Loneliness has been extended through March 31 Newman Popiashvili Gallery 504 West 22 St., NY NY