Marion Lane: The Development of Language

The show’s title refers quite literally to the artist’s experiences in the studio. In order to accomplish what she wanted in this work, she felt she must re-learn how to use the very medium itself. For the past several years Marion Lane has been working exclusively with acrylic paint, a material introduced a mere sixty years ago and which Lane feels has yet to impact the look and craft of painting to the extent she believes possible. She is committed to developing techniques based solely on the physical properties of the material. A hallmark of Lane’s work has in fact become the shapeliness of the brush-less-strokes she achieves. Bulbous, glistening, pulsing, sliding, extending each instance of painted surface is individuated and organic.

That is where the idea of learning the language comes in. Lane re-enchants surface technique in a uniquely personal and political quest for an original formal system. In that context, the show’s title is understood to be an overt statement of fact. This work is the evidence of her struggle to define a new lexicon of forms and techniques. The paintings communicate the experience of life in Los Angeles at the beginning of the 21st century; a supersaturated prettiness that, much like the smooth fresh skin of Sun Tan Barbie, is equally seductive and suspicious.

Lane wants the paintings to be pretty, to elicit a longing. A longing for what? For an ideal realm, parallel to our own rather than simply far from it. A world we visit in periphery and through the subconscious mind, and to which we long ceaselessly to return. More ethereal than the womb, it is a place characterized by a state of nostalgic desire, yet experienced as a presence rather than an absence. These pictures are winningly straightforward, conveying both physical and emotional gravity despite the florid atmospheres and ebulliently ambiguous creature-landscapes they seem to depict.

Modern artists such as Kandinsky and especially Joan Miro have made much of straddling the divide between abstraction and figuration. Both did so under the aegis of a wider quest for a spiritual purpose in visual art. And of course, both artists habitually populated expressive, fantastical landscapes with buoyant, energetically charged characters . The idea is to portray a world that is Symbolic yet also Real, that humans both create and visit in search of the Essential. No one could mistake Lane’s work as belonging to a time before our own, so thoroughly engaged with the current visual situation as she is.

Lane does not underestimate the distinct aesthetic impact of Plastic. Our televisions, telephones and toys are mostly made of it. Other contemporary artists like Jeff Koons and Kenny Scharf have celebrated it in painting and sculpture. Because acrylic paint is plastic, it is predisposed to conjure associations with many of the most familiar objects in our everyday world. At this she indicated an incandescent yellow color field with the exact surface quality of a Jordan almond and said, “Look at this one. It’s like a TV commercial for Easter.”

Shana Dambrot, Los Angeles, 2003