Group Shows

Vivid color and discreet provocation at Mrs.

Installation view: Left to right, work by Lily Ramírez, Fabienne Lasserre, Annie Prendergast (behind Laserre’s transparent hanging piece), and Lily Ramírez

Contributed by Jonathan Stevenson / The group exhibition “Resounding, Variegated, Leaves” brought together three quite divergent artists – Fabienne Lasserre, Annie Prendergast, and Lily Ramírez – who share a penchant for audacious color choices that serves to unify their work. The show yielded an intellectually satisfying and harmonious experience as well as an aesthetically edifying one. That’s a credit not only to the artists but also to the insightful curators at Mrs. Strategically postured in New York but at a tactical remove in the gritty neighborhood of Maspeth, Queens, the gallery appears to have forged a crisply nuanced niche, gently tilting towards female artists, abstraction, and vivid color.

Lily Ramírez,Una cubeta con agua, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 18 x 16 inches

In the main room, Lasserre’s eclectically constructed Oh, ah (in image at top) hung from the ceiling on a quaintly customized hook, a handmade oval framing a clear vinyl pane tinted with blue and purple in two slightly overlapping shapes schematically resembling jaws. In its fusion of homey clunkiness and commercial slickness, the piece – like a family – imparts a dual sense of envelopment and entrapment, its poise on a vertical axis emphasizing nimble iterability for better or worse. Beyond it was Ramírez’s large-scale abstract painting Move (in image at top on the left). That canvas does, to be sure, directly convey the sheer dynamism implied by its title. On top of that, though, Ramírez elicits both clean line and tactile density from acrylic paint. The result is a kind of immaculate freneticism, enshrined as a paradoxical and inexorable vexation of life. On an adjacent wall, Pendergrast’s small flashe painting The Rarest, Most Beautiful Flower provided a more precise referential anchor, but it is so impeccably rendered and features such preternatural color as to seem otherworldly.

Annie Prendergast, The Rarest, Most Beautiful Flower, 2023, Flashe on panel, 16 x 16 inches
Installation view: Lily Ramírez and Fabienne Lasserre
Annie Prendergast, Bog Plant, 2022, Gouache on panel, 18 x 14 inches
Fabienne Lasserre, More Than Just See, 2020, linen, steel, transparent vinyl, corrugated plastic, polystyrene foam, acrylic and enamel paint, 51 x 52 x 3 inches

For all the visual brightness and cheer on offer, there was solemn, fertile ground beneath the surface of this discreetly provocative show. The artists are dialed into existential quandaries and curiosities: the cost of security and stability, the impossibility of stillness, the enduring allure of nature even as it struggles. Lasserre’s More Than Just See looks like an ear, but the relative opacity of the vinyl panel and calculatedly discordant color scheme suggest that it may not hear too well, while The Tracker jauntily traces an ominous and increasingly ubiquitous activity. In their versatile and multivalent painterliness, Ramírez’s I Can’t Swim, Un cubeta con agua, Stuff, and Cave pulse of mortality, the passage of time, and, consequently, the drive for refuge. The gorgeous creepiness of Pendergrast’s Bog Plant and the naughty pleasure of her Love Bomb raise goosebumps of subversive wonder. If you were left sobered by the deeper ambivalence and portent of an outwardly beautiful world, you could also be assured of the capacity of art to navigate it.

Resounding, Variegated, Leaves,” Mrs., 60-40 56th Drive, Maspeth, NY. July 15 – August 11, 2023. Featuring works by Fabienne Lasserre, Annie Pendergrast, and Lily Ramírez.

About the author: Jonathan Stevenson is a New York-based policy analyst, writer, and editor, contributing to the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, and Politico, among other publications.

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