Moving through decadence, desire and its eventual dissolution, the rigorous visual rhetoric of Israeli-born American artist Elad Lassry has infiltrated the White Cube. Known for his distinctive and unapologetic style, Lassry’s particular brand of kitsch, using a strict 11.5 x 14.5 inch photographic format complete with coordinated frame, could easily be brushed aside as a hybrid Californian pop-minimalism. But if you allow subject to give way to surface, there is far more to the brilliant colours and quaint figures featured than meets the eye.
Lassry has made a name for himself with a portfolio of images that draw strongly on the language of media and advertising. These flawlessly framed pictures with meticulous attention to detail appear to be pristinely placed products. On its electric green backdrop – like an outdated family portrait studio shoot having an acidic flashback – Lassry’s Devon Rex, is an image of perfection in colour, composition and lighting. Every distinctive curl in the feline’s coat is on display, every whisker discernible. Lassry’s works have a strong sense of presence, but it is not the subject matter that make this so, even when the subject is as distinctive as this unique breed of cat. Person, animal, object – what it is doesn’t really matter. With endless repetition – same format, similar composition, perhaps a varied color – what it becomes about is the surface, and the picture as object.
The slick, colour-matched, self-admittedly ‘ugly’ frames that encase the images are highly distinctive, and perhaps more weighty than the photographs themselves. Carrying meaning and endowing the images with a certain aura, the frames plunge the pictures directly into objecthood. Like the hermetically sealed vitrines used by the likes of Koons and Hirst, the encasing structure confers a certain preciousness upon what could otherwise be a mass-produced object, whether it be a basketball, a severed animal, or here, a picture of a satin pillow.
This unfluctuating formula that Lassry uses, in this exhibition and throughout his work, through its repetition creates a space for boredom which opens up onto new meaning, and serves to collapse representation into abstraction.
As in Cat and Duck, the shallow pictoral space continues into the monochromaticity of the frame, where a lack of tonal distinction between the elements fuse background, foreground and frame together. The highly reflective surface mirrors the polished figurine in such a crisp, clean way that I am sure many an accusation of digital manipulation has been made. The figure becomes abstracted and emptied of meaning – no history, no narrative, no future, just the present line, shape and colour.
In all of Lassry’s works, the figure largely serves to set up the investigation into formal elements and the subject dissolves into surface. The saccharine hues and slickness of the object are both seductive and offending – and it works. The photograph dissolves into objectness, and struggles between attraction and repulsion. Through repetition, sheer absurdity, over the top kitschiness and banality, the work of Elad Lassry creates desire in the superficial – and I just can’t stop staring.