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La Cienega Area

November 13, 1987|COLIN GARDNER

"The unconscious is structured like a language," wrote French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. Similarly, representational paintings of psychic phenomena have their own parallel vocabulary, rooted in dreams. Laura Lasworth's shaped paintings play upon these dualities, exploiting the cliched language of surrealism as a formal catharsis for more deep-seated, intangible neuroses.

Although Lasworth's subjects are primarily historical, she tends to break down distinctions between doctor and patient, disease and cure, so that apparently objective case studies quickly dissolve into ambiguous scenarios that seem partly mystical, partly schizophrenic. Thus a symbolic portrait of the religious fanatic Leon Gabor is surrounded by floating texts that actually seem to legitimize his claims to be the reincarnation of Christ. Similarly, the Christian mystic C. S. Lewis and social psychologist Milton Rokeach are presented as two sides of the same coin; the tweedledum and tweedledee of the rational and irrational.

Lasworth presents these portraits in brightly lit, theatrical interiors that evoke the worst platitudes of Dali and Ernst: a distorted melange of windows, mirrors, framed portraits, shadows and reflections. Such self-reflexive quotation seems deliberate, as if Lasworth recognizes that the familiarity of outward appearances is one of the ways that the "diseased" mind conceals its disorder. Just as we think that a painting is instantly dismissable as a surrealist cliche, its sheer banality makes us question its sanity. (Asher/Faure, 612 N. Almont Drive, to Dec. 1.)

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