Published by Kerber. Edited by James Cohan. Text by Veronica Roberts, Susan Thompson. Interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist.
American artist Mernet Larsen (born 1940) refers to her paintings not as “representations” but as “analogs,” which alludes to the manual technique she uses to plan them, arranging physical pieces on the canvas before committing to the composition. This term also acknowledges that the scenes in her paintings are constructed in her imagination rather than based on observation. Larsen’s paintings are both humorous and uncanny, depicting organic forms like the human figure in hard-edged geometric shapes. Though her paintings feature recognizable scenarios—office employees in a boardroom meeting, a couple reading in bed—her manipulation of the perspective transforms these banal moments into psychological dramas, hinting at the organized chaos that underlies everyday life. This monograph features work from the last 60 years of Larsen’s career, as well as an interview with the artist by Hans Ulrich Obrist and essays by the curators Susan Thompson and Veronica Roberts.
Mernet Larsen is the first monograph published on an American painter who has recently been rediscovered by the art world as a significant voice in the “extensive, possibly global conversation about how to portray modern, three-dimensional life on two-dimensional surfaces” (Roberta Smith, The New York Times). Larsen’s paintings are a complete world and, in that regard, belong to the tradition that includes Giorgio de Chirico and René Magritte. These worlds “reach toward” ours, even as they pull us in. Larsen’s paintings are abstracted figurations with Japanese-inspired perspective; tracing-paper cutouts are used all across the canvas, giving her works a constructed appeal. Their subjects include classrooms, coffee shops, vacation spots and malls--gathering places--as well as parodies of religious events such as the Resurrection. This monograph gives a full analysis of Larsen’s work of the past 30 years, with a focus on her oeuvre since 2000.