Margaret Lazzari: Vastness
George Billis Gallery, Los Angeles
Special Artist Reception 2-5pm, Saturday, July 18, 2020 RSVP
through August 15
“My soul is in the sky…” ~William Shakespeare
“Water is the driving force of all nature…” ~Leonardo Da Vinci
Written by Nancy Kay Turner
Margaret Lazzari’s glowing, pastel hued, large-scale land and seascapes, though grounded in observation, hover dreamily between heaven and earth and between figuration and abstraction. Lazzari toys with the viewer’s sense of gravity, often creating disorienting spaces that only add to the intrigue of the imagery.
All is in flux in many of these paintings, all is becoming, moving, swaying with a restless energy that percolates beneath the surface, animating the picture plane. Lazzari’s vocabulary of brushstrokes – from long and elegant to short, jumpy, quicksilver marks, to the graceful ribbon-like arcs – is wonderfully varied, quickly moving the viewer’s eye across the luminescent surface.
There’s an unpredictable quality to these imaginary inner vision land/sea scapes that hints at the vastness of the cosmos, of the ocean and even of the workings of our bodies. Lazzari, like a conductor, confidently orchestrates all the intricate surface movements while clearly relishing in the materiality of the paint itself, while creating paradoxically delicate and robust images.
“Restless Sky”, acrylic on canvas, 56 x 70 inches, exemplifies how Lazzari skillfully manipulates the crisp California light and plays with ambiguous space. A sweeping transcendent sky turns out to be a reflection on a glossy pond or lake with the water gently lapping a pebble strewn sandy beach. The time may be either sunrise or sunset, when the clouds are bathed in dazzling golden hues, evoking the paintings of 19th century painter Albert Bierstadt’s romantic skies, as well as J.H.M. Turners swirling marine paintings.
Lazzari herself, in her artist statement cites the influence of The Hudson School of landscape painting. Though there may be hints of the dappled light and creamy color of the Impressionists as well, Lazzari’s paintings are completely contemporary and speak to an existential dilemma that is more about a precarious and breathless existence. Each of these images is like a shape shifter, gliding from meditative calm to dizzying spatial shifts, from serenity to elation.
Water and clouds are metaphors for this ever changing, seductively beautiful and at times destructive and dangerous force. Lazzari entices the viewer with lush color as light is reflected and refracted through gossamer clouds or glass-like watery surfaces, but the longer one looks at the images the more a sense of uncertainty or unease sets in. There is a perceived calm here that could change in a heartbeat.
While the larger paintings are all resolutely vertical, relying on the push and pull of the subtle color relationships to establish space, the medium size paintings have more explicit and traditional (with a twist, of course) foreground, middle ground and backgrounds. “Raining Gems”, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 50 inches, is bisected by a slightly diagonal horizon line way in the distance that delineates the moody mottled sky from the rain slicked ground plane. Lazzari confounds expectations, as the glowing raindrops appear to be heavy and volumetric (though dazzling in color) almost like candy coated hail energetically bouncing off the ground. The multi-colored thick rain drops in the center of the image appear to be sliding down a pane of glass reaffirming the flatness of the picture plane delightfully warping our sense of deep space.
In the enigmatic and engaging painting entitled “From Nothing”, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, orange tinged rays of sunlight are rising above the violet and green gently rolling waves. Mysterious objects floating on the surface suggest that one is underwater looking up at floating flotsam on the watery surface: Or that these unusual lovely squiggles and lines are drifting lazily through the air. The title to this reviewer suggests the Big Bang, with bits and pieces of matter congealing accidentally to produce new life forms.
The smallest paintings are all oil on canvas and depict totally enclosed translucent glass objects. Each of these solid (aqua, blue, violet or pink) glass objects has gauzy light filtering in through its irregular surfaces. In Light in Glass Aqua, oil on canvas, 12 x 16 inches, an irregularly shaped glass object fills the frame entirely, seeming monumental and enclosing a world suffused with light. These small, intimate works (Light in Glass Blue, Violet, Pink) become even more abstract as Lazzari zooms in ever closer to the faceted, reflective surface that allows one to see both inside and outside at the same time: a quality that only transparent glass affords.
All of the stunning paintings in the show exhibit a profound reverence for the extravagant beauty of nature, and as the title Vastness suggests, for the boundless, limitless space above, below and within us. Lazzari is a masterful painter at the height of her powers whose unique voice deserves attention and whose dynamic works reward deep investigation and contemplation.