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September 28 - November 3, 2002 at the The Sandbox, Venice

by John O'Brien

“#3,” 2002, acrylic on panel, 16 x 16”.

Detail of painting, 2002.

Detail of painting, 2002.

The artist in her studio.

Marion Lane's latest painterly investigations into the intersection between processoriented painting and the subterranean flow of surreal imagery in the everyday are ideas at the core of her exhibition, Modern Living. Favoring a painting technique where multiple drops or variously deformed spherical paint blobs are harvested from a sort of drying rack and then positioned and fixed onto the surface of treated wood panels, Lane has been using a combination of chance and imagination to conjure up groups of rather whimsical compositions for the last several years. The counterpositions she pursues as she moves between working with the forces of gravity which act to deform the congealing paints as they dry, and the successive repositioning of the various fragments into quasi-narrative sequences do justice to the historical antecedents she relies on. After all, it was in the newly coined free association process that the Surrealists discovered their more than real 'reality,' and it was in Max Ernst's frottage technique (scrumbling some marking substance over a drawing surface onto which an underlying texture was transferred) that was used to liberate the direct impulses of the unconscious mind.

Lane comes to these techniques and tendencies at a much later historical date, so much of her work is more humorous than portentous. The operatic has transmuted into the realm of animation and the epic has subsided to the more anecdotal, but this is not to her or the work's detriment; but it is the historical frame of the moment. Likewise, the work exemplifies the kind of sensorial appeal and libidinal thrust that the original Surrealists wished to wrest back into the realm of the painterly from the staged academic Puritanism into which it had fallen. Self described and critically appraised as "taffy-like" work that sets off "an uncontrollable urge to lick, smell and eat it," this impulse would certainly hearten even the most abandoned aficionados of the Surrealist movement.

Modern Living then works to be a kind of celebration of the delirium of perception, a momentary suspension of the ordinary. Here the gamut of colors represented no longer clamors after nature, the senses can exact their physical due and fantasy can be activated by allusions and illusions drawn from a minimal array of painterly objects distributed over a velvety surface. In this delerium, Lane's body of work references an acute nostalgia for early modern times, a moment in which technological progress was equated to unlimited opportunity and, moreover, promise. It may be a quixotic gesture, but the time passed in the perceptual encounter with Modern Living may prove as much respite as we will be getting from the contemporary for some time to come. I advise reveling in it.