Rarely do dead people and living people exhibit more handsomely together than the late printmaker Rupert Jasen Smith and the living (and very lively) painter Eva Lake, both showing this month at Augen. Smith, Andy Warhol's printer from 1977 to 1987, is featured in a series of screenprints owing much to Pop Art's glorification of consumer culture. His Pacman, Astro Boy and Sony Walkman hold forth in full iconic splendor, many of the prints sprinkled with diamond dust. Despite their vintage subject matter—or perhaps because of it—the works do not read as dated in the least, in our nostalgia-happy times.
For their part, Lake's paintings would seem at first to flow more from Op Art than Pop, given their repetitive geometries and dizzying, vibratory effects. The artist cites Josef Albers, Kasimir Malevich and Native American blankets as influences and sees her artistic mission as a modernist quest to create iconic objects that command veneration. Fortunately for us, the painter cannot escape her fabulously Pop-ish autobiography and fascinations, no matter how stringently she carries on about her overarching aims and studio discipline. Active in the punk scene of 1970s London, she went on to become an Emmy Award-winning makeup artist in the 1980s, helping the members of Duran Duran look even more fabulous, and worked for Chanel and Ferragamo in the 1990s—all the while evolving a painting style that has only recently arrived at a spectacular, dynamic maturity. Lake has a fashionista's eye for color; one of her pieces, The Italian, is based on an Etro necktie she saw on the Bergdorf Goodman website. In other works, she takes on counterintuitive color schemes and forces them to work: turquoise to midnight, blood-orange to mustard in Take Off; mint to cerulean, sunflower to Nehi orange in Blanket. In previous outings Lake's preferred motif was the square, but now she has fixated upon the skinny vertical rectangle, chromatically grading the shapes less fastidiously than she did in the past and allowing more texture to come through. In fact, the works would benefit from even lusher surface effects and an even glossier finish.
Calming yet aggressive, celebratory yet maddening, these incantational pulsations have transcended modernism, Pop and Op, and henceforth needn't be contextualized a la Bridget Riley, Francis Celentano, et al. They have finally and definitively earned the right to be met on their own terms.
817 SW 2nd Ave., 224-8182. Closes Aug. 29.