Disembodied Robes: Paintings and Drawings by Suzanne Lacke at the Giorgi Gallery

In the oil paintings on display in the Giorgi Gallery on Claremont Avenue (through October 12), Suzanne Lacke has done a deceptively simple thing: she has looked long, hard, and lovingly at a series of dresses and painted what she sees. Lacke's show features sixteen vivid and engaging renderings of garments: twelve dresses, a men's overcoat, a Boy Scout jacket, a hat, and a pair of heels most on canvases about the size of small doorframes, and all executed without visible reference to the human figure.

On a conceptual level, these works playfully upend the tradition of painting from the nude, and present - in lieu of the disrobed human form - the disembodied robes with which we clothe ourselves. In the hands of a lesser painter, such a gesture might amount to a maudlin or merely clever evocation of the presentness of human absence(s). But Lacke's paintings sidestep the easier ironies of art-historical end-game playing, and instead affirm her faith in the emotional sufficiency of the ordinary as such.

Presented frontally and with a kind of clinically warm regard, some on hangers, some bodilessly afloat in space, Lacke's isolated garments have distant affinities with Magritte's iconic bowlers and business suits. But Lacke's dresses are not habiliments of irony or the otherworldly. Rather, in their Hopper-like luminousness and solidity, these paintings inhabit a world of vibrant presences, a world so brimming with plentitude that the folds of these garments are redolent with affect.

What Lacke has achieved in these paintings is the figuration of the human without resorting to the human figure. Paradoxically, Lacke's gnomon-like omission of 'the person' in these paintings has the effect of personalizing them, inviting us to flesh them out (as it were) with our own associations, our own idiosyncratic narratives. For finally it is the content of our own personalities that we glimpse in the absences Lacke has gifted us with. The person is (in) there, after all. It's us.

I invite you to go and see.

Paintings and Drawings by Suzanne Lacke,
September 21 - October 12, 2004.
Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Avenue (at Ashby). (510) 848 - 1228. http://www.giorgigallery.com