Anxiety of Abstraction

This paper provides a comparative analysis of two works of Annie Lapin, focusing on her insightful reflection of abstract concepts, combination of realistic and impressionistic techniques, and mastery of work with different types of light. Annie Lapin is a contemporary American artist who works in the field of painting. In the mass media, her art is referred to as “slow burn,” “whirlwind of imagination,” and “the anxiety of abstraction.” Annie Lapin was born in Washington D.C.; currently, she lives and works in Los Angeles. She was studying fine arts at the University of California, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Yale University. During the last six years, Lapin had solo exhibitions in London (twice), Naples (twice), Greensboro, NC, Santa Barbara, CA, Los Angeles, CA, Pasadena, CA, Kansas City, MO, Santa Monica, CA, and New Haven, CT. Besides, she holds numerous group exhibitions as well as public and academic lectures across the state.

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The first glimpse at her works creates an impression of her being influenced by Claude Monet and Dali though it has something in common with romanticism. However, when one looks closer, the unique voice emerges. Annie Lapin explores themes like relations, fantasy and imagination, light and air, memory, and the other abstract topics.

What I like about her art is her thoughtful work with deep Rorschach-like shadows and shapes (like in The All-Over Inside, 2011 or small floating black dot ghost, 2016, and, particularly, in let's talk relations, 2016 ). She is really good with smoky allusions of people and trees, where she successfully combines detailed and brute brush work (for example, in Beast Bothered, 2010). Her exploration of daylight impressed me as well. In Lapin’s 2011 work The Air Man, the emphasis is on frontal non-objective shapes, but the background is filled with light so realistically that you literally believe in it. In her Cyclic Recession and Progression V, 2013, one can observe striking work with light and that fiery texture that cuts darkness of the background.

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It was hard to select only two of her works to discuss, but I stopped on Thing that Happens to Memory, 2013 (see fig. 1) and Phase Untitled (Preportrait III), 2011 (see fig. 2).

These paintings have easily recognizable similarities in texture and ways of using implied lines. When having a closer look at the painting, one is able to notice the style of the same artist though the paintings explore different topics and belong to different series and periods of Lapin’s work. However, the differences are much more prominent. Thing that Happens to Memory (see fig. 1) represents a coherent image of the very notion of forgetting. Noteworthy, the word “forget” is intentionally absent in the title of the work, like the artist failed to recall the word. Non-objective shapes serve the same goal embodying the emptiness where a memory of something used to be. Visual balance is moved to the foggy shapes, but one can also observe dark hints of the forgotten image that provide no information about what is that. The artist uses cold colors and misbalanced contrast of front and back layers to emphasize emotional reduction one experiences in forgetting.

At first, Phase Untitled (Preportrait III) (see fig. 2) shows the viewer a mysterious and noble contrast of indoor darkness and golden-yellow candle light. A few seconds later, one notices features of a face turned to the upper right corner of the painting. The clarifier “preportrait” indicates a creative experiment of an attempt to draw an almost portrait and finishes with a somehow universal picture of a pure human face with no excessive details informing about gender or social status.

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In conclusion, Annie Lapin creates clear and impressive images of internal human experiences surrounded by the limited presence of the outside world. Her experiments of combining abstract and realistic techniques show high mastery in guiding the viewers’ attention through the space of a painting. One might enjoy her highly intuitive, attentive, and eloquent works in Honor Fraser Gallery, LA.

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