The last day of Jonathan Lasker’s show at Cheim & Read was forecast to be the year’s coldest, but out the window it looks bright and sunny. Meteorology and art criticism find themselves in accord, for Lasker is surely one of the most ambivalence-inducing abstract painters to have emerged from the postmodern storm clouds of the 1980s, one for whom it is very difficult to take the temperature, let alone know what mood to wear when looking at his confected enigmas. At one level, the insistent grid, the childlike “primary structures,” the almost insolent nursery colors, the quote marks that surround every gesture and the knowing play of graphic versus painterly all seem to seal his aesthetic within the microclimate of art about art. But the strange darkness of symbolism, the vanitas of that cross and those insistent yet ambiguous forms – is that a slice of bread in garish yellow? a falling bomb in the receding overpainted pentimento? – demand personal, psychological readings that don’t mesh with the chromatic chirpiness. Lasker seems to be saying, with Pierre Bonnard, “He who sings is not always happy.” DAVID COHEN
Jonathan Lasker, The Remnant of Spirit, 2015. Oil on linen, 75 x 100 inches. Courtesy of Cheim & Read.