There is an allusion to mythology in the latest series of abstractions by Los Angeles-based Mimi Lauter-not the familiar myths of antiquity, but rather a collection of fables written in a yet-to-be deciphered language. Powerful gestural strokes of thickly laid oil and soft pastels raked across the surface of the work are contrasted by relentlessly obsessive scratched lines, dots and markings that reveal colored backgrounds, often near-complements of the primary scheme that lies beneath. These formal contrasts-such as pomegranate red over sky blue or fiery orange and magenta interrupted by somber navy blue-are amplified by the sheer scale of the work that reaches up to 92 inches high or 113 inches across, completely encompassing the viewer. Despite the dominance of the abstraction, there is a pervading sense of narrative that determinedly inserts itself throughout the works on view: a mysterious red-mermaid gowned femme fatale holds center stage in Domineeringly Impatient; a tousled, platinum-haired youth in profile somehow evokes the formality of Northern Renaissance portraiture in Thrust; while a Freudian eroticism permeates Wander and Fade (all works cited 2014).
It may be tempting to attribute the visceral impact of these works to Lauter’s bold handling of the medium along with the overwhelming size of the work. However, walking into the secondary gallery of Lauter’s third solo show at Marc Selwyn reveals another layer to the exhibition. Here, an assortment of small, intimate works demands our attention. Some of these works are unique, while others, which the artist titles “miniatures,” appear to be direct antecedents to the mural-sized works in the front room. However, due to the change in scale and slight alterations of color and composition, the most successful of the miniatures take on a life of their own. Case in point are the dual compositions of Accepted Disenchantment, each depicting what appears to be a lone figure atop a hill, something akin to the Chinese Ming Literati painter Shen Zhou’s contemplative Poet on a Mountaintop (c. 1490-1500) filtered though Post-Impressionist Paul Sérusier’s jewel-toned work, The Talisman (1888). In the large painting, at 72-by-61 inches, the scene is energetic as the red cliffs are almost lost against a lime green sky and marigold sun that refuse to rest in the background, instead pushing forward to aggressively envelope the figure. It’s companion, a mere 8-by-7 inches, shares color and a similar composition but little else. A sense of tranquility permeates the scene as the solitary figure, perhaps acting as a stand-in for the external viewer, contemplates the abstract splendor of this mythic world.