St. Petersburg, FL
Mernet Larsen makes complex paintings that are multivalent in their layers and perspectives. Purposefully creating tension between volume and space in her work, she writes, “I want to celebrate the complex internal conflict that vitalizes life, using the particular experiences of my life as building blocks, as a novelist might.”
Working in an abstract yet narrative style, it is Larsen’s unique sense of perspective that makes her paintings so engaging. In 2000, she entered a phase of her career deemed Geometric Figuration. Citing a desire to revisit fifteenth-century Italian painting in which figures are situated within highly detailed architectural spaces, Larsen began to create narrative scenes that upset any sense of the illusory perspectives of traditional representation. Thanks to Museum donors Eric Lang Peterson and Michael Graham, the Museum of Fine Arts is proud to have four major paintings by Larsen from across her career in the collection.
Originally from Michigan, Larsen studied at the University of Florida (BFA) and Indiana University (MFA). She began teaching at the University of South Florida in 1967 and is now Professor Emeritus of Painting. Larsen has had over 25 solo exhibitions at museums and galleries, including James Cohan Gallery, New York, 2016; Vogt Gallery, New York, 2012; Regina Rex, Bushwick, 2011; New York Studio School, 2005; and a 25-year retrospective at the Deland Museum of Art, Florida, 1992. Larsen is a recipient of a regional NEA Grant and a Florida Individual Artist Fellowship, and also received USF grant support for research in China, Japan, and India, and is a McDowell Fellow. The artist divides her time between Jackson Heights, NY, and Tampa, FL.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether you go or not, Mernet Larsen, is the first monograph published on an American painter who has recently been rediscovered by the art world as a significant voice in the “extensive, possibly global conversation about how to portray modern, three-dimensional life on two-dimensional surfaces” (Roberta Smith, The New York Times). Larsen’s paintings are a complete world and, in that regard, belong to the tradition that includes Giorgio de Chirico and René Magritte. These worlds “reach toward” ours, even as they pull us in. Larsen’s paintings are abstracted figurations with Japanese-inspired perspective; tracing-paper cutouts are used all across the canvas, giving her works a constructed appeal. Their subjects include classrooms, coffee shops, vacation spots and malls--gathering places--as well as parodies of religious events such as the Resurrection. This monograph gives a full analysis of Larsen’s work of the past 30 years, with a focus on her oeuvre since 2000.