Friday, March 3
DOCUMENT is pleased to present Moon Tempo, an exhibition of new paintings by Meg Lipke. This is the gallery’s first solo show with Lipke as well as her first gallery presentation in Chicago.
At first glance, Moon Tempo suggests a departure, and indeed an act of restraint, from the artist’s familiar shaped canvases. Filled with polyester to suggest pillowlike volumes and grid-like voids, these earlier paintings are as much about their sculptural facticity as the acrylic forms that adorn them yet remain beholden to the canvases’ idiosyncracies. In Lipke’s new works, the plane returns—even though the canvases, which utilize custom stretchers, are far from perfect rectangles. In each, one corner is elegantly curved, a gesture almost always echoed by some shape or other among the painted forms within. In addition, some corners of these paintings are gently pinched, reflecting the work of a fallible hand rather than any ninety-degree angle.
With the plane comes composition, pattern, and sign, the stuff of easel painting. Working in acrylic and gouache, Lipke alternates deftly between abstraction and vestiges of representational genres such as landscape, portraiture and still life. She is particularly fixated on line as both a contouring and patterning tool, setting up rigidly distinct areas of the painting on the one hand, and on the other threatening to overwhelm the composition with undulating threads of black paint. Colors tend toward muted pastels with occasional bursts of bright hues, such as the needle-like accent of yellow in Summer II, or the striking shade of luminescent blue in Metcalf’s Pond. Liffey, 2023, takes its title from a river in eastern Ireland located near several Paleolithic sites that the artist visited in her youth. It speaks to a consistent source of inspiration and veiled forms for Lipke: prehistoric cave painting. The intricate compositions can take months to complete.
Glimpses of the representational world thread through Lipke’s entrancing compositions, in which embryonic shapes become vessels for sentiment and personal resonance. Specific or singular references can be elusive, but sometimes assert themselves with intent. One example is Lily Klee in Venice, 2023, which includes an interpretation—much more so than a copy—of Paul Klee’s Small Room in Venice. The painting-within-a-painting sits atop of a recumbent figure that is presumably the artist’s wife, who financially supported her husband’s artistic career as a music teacher while putting aside her own creative endeavors. It is a chapter largely underestimated or even outright ignored in art-historical literature: Lily Klee as literal support for her husband’s art. Akin to the Klees’ mutual imbrication, Lipke’s paintings carve out a visual lexicon that embraces contradiction and coalescence in equal measure.