Monique van Genderen at The Happy Lion

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Untitled, 2009
Oil, enamel, alkyd on wood, 6′ x 4′
Photo: courtesy of The Happy Lion

There’s something endearing about the way Monique van Genderen’s paintings hang brightly on the otherwise naked white walls, commanding attention: it reminds one of a little girl who gets into her mother’s makeup drawer and comes downstairs without saying a word-streaks of red lipstick across her cheeks, trails of black mascara encircling her eyes. The impeccably installed series of ten, mostly untitled, 6′ x 4′ paintings on panel at The Happy Lion coolly brings bursts of color and abstraction into the stark space, offering us a view of the artist’s latest attempt to manifest undefined moments through sleek application.

For her fourth solo exhibition at the Chinatown space, the Los Angeles-based artist has experimented with the idea of finality, in that the work either does or does not reach a point of completion, depending on one’s view. In her statement about the work she muses that the paintings have been left in various states of completion and that they really need not be finished, in a sense, in order for one to draw any number of conclusions about what lies beneath the facade of abstraction, if anything even does. But this new work does exude a sense of finality, however precise, when compared with her previous work, as seen at The Happy Lion in 2007.

This new, uniformly sized series of paintings draws a sort of visual conclusion: burnt oranges, spring-colored stripes and blocks of muted grays bleed to the edges of the panels, and places that are left untouched by the artist’s hand seem intentional, as if she’s touched them with some part of her intellect, and then just that’s enough to say they’ve been worked on. Though the pictures are abstract, and yes, one may glean the outlines of shapes that you can put words to, the real sense of completion comes from the experience of taking in the full vision of each painting. Time spent in front of each piece brings a feeling of fulfillment the way heroes of short fiction give us just enough and never too much of a story.

—ALLISON GIBSON