Eli Langer

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Eli Langer, Shadow Shift, 2007

Many people were struck by the confounding elegance of Eli Langer’s latest exhibition in Toronto. Like much contemporary art, you could ‘get it’ in an instant – but what you ‘got’, that was less certain.

A powerful florescent light eliminating all shadow enhanced the dazzling white ground of a painting hanging in the gallery’s window vitrine. Floating against this whiteness were a couple of insouciant washes of oil paint in purple and blue, the lines intersecting in the work’s upper right hand corner to make a 45 degree angle.

That this work has been described as both “Zen-like” and “baroque” gives an indication of the freshness of ground that the artist marks out with this exhibition.

In a media environment that thrives on monotony, shock, and repetition (this is what celebrities are for!) it is exceedingly difficult to create a visual frisson of the new. Much worthy art founders on exactly this rock of seeming overly familiar. Langer’s work in this show has the opposite effect; the artist combines familiar elements to free us from tired habits of looking.

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Eli Langer

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Eli Langer (center)

If small-scale paintings are like exercises, these works are exercises in Langer’s ability to remember in paint. He captures the intermediate space of his own recent past. All of the works are painted on pieces of wallboard, some of which came from the now defunct Audubon Hotel in New Orleans, where the artist was resident in 1999. Hovering between figuration and abstraction, the paintings mostly depict interiors, rooms remembered in terms of an angle of light on a corner of the ceiling or the floor. All of the paintings consist of flatly applied laminae washes of oil paint, the objective being to portray the idea of two-dimensionality as it dissolves into light.

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