World According to Mernet Lersen

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Mernet Lersen’s West Coast debut appeared to have been very positively received here in Los Angeles (sorry, the show at VSF had come down a few weeks ago; hopefully we’ll see more of her works in the near future). This 75-year-young Florida artist brought the otherworldly perspective to the scenes depicted from the ordinary, monotonous life. Built by highly geometric blocks and uncomfortably skewed viewing angles, Lersen’s painted world conjured up the image of ghostly Cubism and Surrealism practitioners trying to build a virtual habitat in Minecraft.

In the realm of video games like shoddily rendered but highly addictive Minecraft or beautifully mesmerizing Monument Valley, the world was almost entirely constructed from myriads of isometric squares. The resulting dreamscape always appeared perfect and splendidly artificial. Such contriver was quickly dispersed and brought back down to earth in Lersen’s paintings as the artist incorporated aggressively distorted perspective. Propping the picture plane at steep angles, the warped tables, ceilings, and floors caused the viewer’s eyes to slip away and slide down the canvas surface —falling down, left, right, and up again. The otherwise precise, blocky world was suddenly turned into an impossible geometric county fair.

Smartly complementing this amusement were bland expressions adorning Lersen’s figures. Seemingly oblivious to their own existence and participation, the actors in these works were suspended in a state of REM sleep. Not soulless, however, their brain was awake while the body was still paralyzed. In this moment of uncontrollable consciousness, the viewer’s mind came and went between the concrete reality that existed and fabricated memory that was as convincing.

Mernet Lersen’s Chainsawer, Bicyclist, and Reading in Bed concluded on April 18, 2015 at VSF. The gallery just opened Jim Drain. Keep up to date with the gallery’s ongoing program by visiting

All images by author for editorial purposes only.

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