Paintings that encapsulate all the feels of 2020

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This week’s picks include paintings that encapsulate all the feels of 2020; mixed media paintings that focus on fatherhood and resilience; and paintings of dog shows that let the dogs be center stage.  

Lauren Satlowski, “Me Worry,” 2020. Oil on linen, 18 x 24 inches.
Images courtesy the artist and Bel Ami, Los Angeles. Photo by Paul Salveson.

Lauren Satlowski at Bel Ami

Lauren Satlowski’s solo show of new paintings at Bel Ami titled “Watch the Bouncing Ball,” captures some of the deeply felt resonances of 2020. Even the title of the show elicits an idea of being stuck — watching the world bounce by while waiting for what will come next. Leering shadows appear across the paintings, which are rendered in Satlowski’s photo-realistic yet imaginative style, capturing the pandemic’s overall feeling of isolation. In one work, a small sticker with the word “Help” is sandwiched between two thick panes of glass — as condensation forms across their surface, dappled shadows drape the arrangement in an uneasy mood. “Desert Landscape” is a bit more apocalyptic — or futuristic — and shows a skeleton-turned-cyborg woman who is composed of various limbs cribbed from Satlowski’s vast collection of porcelain and plastic trinkets and figurines. The figure seems both dead and alive; one arm bounces a ball in mid-motion as the other claws into the desert sand. The show oscillates between hope and dread, and much like this rollercoaster-of-a-year, the paintings are moody, psychological, hopeful, and filled with isolation. 

Lauren Satlowski, “Gauntlet,” 2020. Oil on linen, 16 x 20 inches.
Images courtesy the artist and Bel Ami, Los Angeles. Photo by Paul Salveson. 

For Lauren Satlowski, her studio became a place to channel some of her 2020 anxiety. When her Bel Ami show was initially planned, she thought a lot about how the show would be viewed during the pandemic. “I knew the conditions the show would be viewed in would be different than the conditions I was responding to on a daily basis,” Satlowski told me,“It was like a riddle to make paintings that I felt documented the shifting energies without commentary or presumption.” Somehow, the paintings were able to capture that range of emotional states that many of us have felt in the last year while being both personal and universal. “I wanted the paintings to feel small and intimate but also encompassing,” Satlowski said.  

On view: December 12, 2020 - February 13, 2021

Lavar Munroe, “Bathwater,” 2020, dollar bills, sandwich bag, stem, staples, blunt, spray paint and acrylic on canvas, 83 1/2 x 68 1/2 inches (212.1 x 174 cm).
Image © Lavar Munroe, courtesy of M+B. Photo by Ed Mumford.

Lavar Munroe at M+B

In Lavar Monroe’s “Father Alone” — a title taken from an Ike and Tina Turner song — the artist paints sinewy figures with glowing red skin, blending in a wide array of found objects to build densely filled and patterned surfaces: pearls, mouse traps, dollar bills, sandwich bags, bubble gum, and even a blunt are attached to his painted canvas. Munroe refers to the red figures as “Redbones” describing them in the press release as referencing “a harmony and sameness of mankind once stripped of race markings such as skin.” Having been raised by a single father, and as one himself, Munroe’s paintings muse on fatherhood, while blending in cultural and religious symbols. In “Virgin and Child,” Munroe swaps the typically female virgin in with a haloed male figure who holds his baby on his lap, his feet dangling into water as if sitting on a dock. A chain of pearls connects the two while a dense fog of ghostly painted objects and patterns swirl around the pair, along with flames and mousetraps — the work celebrates paternal love, insisting on resilience and connection amidst a chaotic journey. 

On view: December 5, 2020 - January 16, 2021 

Lydia Blakeley, “Flock of Beagles,” 2020. Oil on linen, 23 ⅝ x 35 ⅜ inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Steve Turner Gallery. 

Lydia Blakeley at Steve Turner 

Remember that scene at the beginning of “Lady and the Tramp” when dog owners stroll by with their pups, each owner matching its dog in style and temperament? Lydia Blakeley’s new online show of paintings at Steve Turner takes dog-owner relationships even further: to the competitive dog show arena. In the show, the human-owners can never be seen in full and instead appear as disembodied hands or a pair of legs. Central to each painting is a dog (or set of dogs, as in “Flock of Beagles”), whose eyes are fixed on their off-screen owner, focused and at attention –– others seem defiantly unamused. A taut leash appears in each work, connecting each bulldog or maltese like an umbilical cord to its owner, eliciting issues of control, pageantry, and dominance and moving beyond the typical fond depictions of pet-owner relationships. Still, in each painting, the dog owner is omitted –– pictured as background noise — and almost becomes subservient to the dog in all its majesty.   

On view: December 16, 2020–January 16, 2021