WALKING BACKWARD RUNNING FORWARD
Marilyn Lerner’s solo exhibition, Walking Backward Running Forward, places 5 paintings from the late 1980s alongside 9 new works. Lerner’s body of hard-edged abstract geometric paintings represents a rigorous and persistent investigation into the mechanics and resonances of geometry, a visual language with universal significance. The exhibition is bookended by 2 white circular paintings, one completed in 1989 and the other nearly 30 years later.
Lerner paints with oil on wooden panels, sometimes shaped, laying out a compositional scaffolding of geometric tessellations. Circles, squares, and ovals are frequent subjects. Each area is filled with a single skin of paint. In the late 80s, Lerner used modeling paste to build up certain areas into low relief. The newer works are smoother, slicker, though brushstrokes are still apparent. Lerner applies color intuitively, with an eye toward perceptual relationships and those between the part and the whole. The resulting surface is both harmonious and off-kilter.
Lerner has been working within the genre of geometric abstraction for nearly 5 decades. Trained as a printmaker, she took up sculpture after completing her education, working largely with salvaged laminated woods. Though Lerner soon began to gain notice for her work as a sculptor, exhibiting in the 1970 Sculpture Annual at the Whitney Museum of American Art, she chose instead to follow her burgeoning interest in color to painting, and abandoned making sculpture in 1971.
Though Lerner’s work came into its maturity at a time when geometric abstraction in painting was having a moment du jour in New York and beyond, her paintings have consistently defied and outlasted trend, bearing an idiosyncrasy of color and composition that sets her apart from her peers. Her ongoing work demonstrates a concentrated and self-guided practice, a singularity of vision using repeated forms and challenging colors that give her work a loquacious complexity with endless variation.