Mimi Lauter's new oil and pastel drawings are just as rapturous as ever. Just as reticent to reveal their forms and narratives. Just as fervent, just as urgent.
There seems at first to be less going on within them -- less density of detail and fewer traceable subplots -- than in the pieces in her revelatory debut show at Marc Selwyn in 2010 or her equally stunning followup here two years later. The new work is more distilled, somewhat less ornate, but the energy and intensity remain high. One can immerse oneself in these images and stay, and stay.
"Thrust" is a good example. It reads vaguely as a profile bust portrait, the shoulders a burnished orange shadowed by greens. The head, if that's what it is, is all wheat and milk and light -- a soft, slow explosion of luminosity. Long strokes of white and gold cascade downward, some smeared smooth and some rugged and porous.
At 102-by-72 inches, the drawing becomes an enveloping atmosphere when standing close. Rows of small, fine, vertical hatch marks incised in the surface become visible: Pure ornamentation? The marking of time? Primal records of presence? Dashes of magenta and swipes of coral course down the page. Fragments of dark lines begin to describe forms, then recede. Layers built up, compressed and scratched into comprise a material and perhaps also a metaphoric history, lush and elusive.
Every surface here pulses with immediacy, and also resonates with myriad currents from the past: the majesty of tapestries; the rawness of cave painting; the palettes and peculiarities of Ensor, Redon, Vuillard, Turner, Klimt. Lauter assimilates these and other sources, but does not act beholden to them. Her sense of touch feels refreshingly independent.
Based in L.A., Lauter earned her MFA from UC Irvine in 2010. In addition to the nine large drawings, around 20 small pieces she calls "miniatures" are also on view, many relating directly to the larger pieces.
Throughout, there are hints of the avian, anatomical and meteorological. Something resembling a turtle's back dominates one drawing, and a cluster of butterfly nets another. Titles carry most of the narrative load: "In Spite of the Heat, There Was a Wind;" "Loose Lipped." "Domineeringly Impatient" reads as a romantic fever dream, as insistent as it is inconclusive.
Meaning lies largely in the making of these ravishing drawings: in the relationship and tension between the small, repeated mark and the broad, gestural swath, in the spectrum of hues (egg yolk, wine, cerulean, jade, periwinkle, lipstick, mint) that Lauter puts to exhilarating use in the texture of the soft pastel, given to froth and crust, and in the exquisite convergence of the private and the epic.