Inside the White Cube
5 April – 14 May 2023
‘I have always looked at work historically, to understand how images are made now, what the world looks and feels like now, but through the lens of historical anecdotes and imagery’.
White Cube is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by Mimi Lauter, the artist’s first in London. Titled ‘Ruach’ – a Hebrew word for spirit, wind or breath – Lauter’s new group of works is inspired by the natural world and the cyclical rhythm of plants.
Born in San Francisco and now based in Los Angeles, Lauter works primarily with soft pastel and oil pastel on paper, a delicate medium that lends an immediacy and fragile beauty to her work. Conceiving of painting as a theatrical space, her work is often large in scale, comprising multi-part constellations that together take the form of a mural. By contrast, the artist’s subject matter evokes a feeling of intimacy, and speaks to a private experience of the existential and the transcendent.
Reflecting Lauter’s interest in European 19th and early 20th century painting, her paintings reveal influences as wide-ranging as Odilon Redon, Pierre Bonnard, Jean-Édouard Vuillard and Hilma Af Klint, as well as Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, and the rich colours of Mexican art and its folkloric imagery. Fascinated by symbolic readings of landscapes and still lifes – and how they can become metaphors for mortality – the artist states: ‘I have always looked at work historically, to understand how images are made now, what the world looks and feels like now, but through the lens of historical anecdotes and imagery’.
The notion of a journey is central to this exhibition, in which Lauter explores the connection between a passage through a landscape and an internal movement deeper into the body. Just as a plant grows instinctively towards sunlight, Lauter considers how our path through a landscape is invariably guided by light; in several paintings she combines a circular space, which she has termed a place for ‘wandering’, and an inherent focal point or ‘place of arrival’. The paintings possess an internal logic that mirrors vegetal growth – from seedlings to pollination to decomposition – and correlate with beliefs about death in Judaism (where there is no afterlife, but a lingering and dissolving of the spirit and a return of the body to the earth for the cycle of life to renew). Lauter also cites as a reference Elizabeth Bishop’s poem The Weed, which similarly describes a cycle in which death gives rise to new life.
The artist has remarked that using pastels is akin to working with clay, as the malleability and plasticity of the medium enables her to physically shape the images in the work through an intuitive process. Colour is conceived of in a similar way – while the artist’s choices may be intuitive, they are also culturally informed and thereby offer manifold associations. The suggestion of bodily and organic forms in Lauter's work is achieved through a process of layering whereby the artist covers the entire paper with oil pastel, creating a saturated and tactile ground upon which she can draw and incise. This process of building up and digging down into each drawing Lauter likens to gardening, an activity that provides the artist with a constant source of inspiration.
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