Portrait of Fish, 1987

One of the L.A. Weekly's 1986 Critic's Picks, Laura Lasworth returns with a set of paintings that appear reticent on the surface, and most likely will be ignored by those who are stampeding to the Next Big Thing. They are folksy yet accomplished works, with Surrealist touches, and the even interior light of a Vermeer. Neither regressive nor staid, Lasworth's concerns are basically traditional: Her portraits, literate mini-allegories, are suffused with Christian mysticism and psychodrama. Pretty heady stuff, and yet Lasworth makes these themes palatable, keeping away from metaphysical ooze with her unpretentious compositions. Many of the oil-on-panel paintings are shaped to match the three-point perspective of the rooms they depict, adding literal to psychological depth. Jacob's Chair is almost a still life, with a spiral staircase leading to a checkerboard floor, where a piece of salmon (?) lies next to a bottle and a book. Almost, that is, except for the glowing skeletal form of a cat, back arched.  This odd little irradiated feline alludes to nuclear holocaust, and the book's illustrations, of a mourning dove and vulture, suggest death. Still, Lasworth's work doesn't force readings. The Spiritual Child of Sabina Spielrein tells the story of the possible birth of psychoanalysis. Spielrein was treated by Jung and may have introduced him to Freud, under whom she later practiced psychoanalysis. The "child" is a splayed schematic diagram of the nervous system from the brain down. Research papers surround it as it hovers at the intersection of two walls bearing portraits of Freud and Jung. This might also be an oblique comment on their view of women - fleshless theories. The Portrait of Leon Gabor deals with psychoanalysis from the patient's side. Gabor wears an ersatz crown, affixed with colored transparent sheets, like stained glass shards, which cover his face: The parallax disorder of his world view, perhaps? While two small de Chirico-type figures dance around him, papers swirl about the canvas, containing Gabor's writings, which are quite wonderful. For example: "This body is my home. I don't want any gangsters in it," and "Degeneration and the appearance of disfigured midgets are caused by misuse of sex." Proving that, in the drama of psychosis, the unconscious always has the best lines. Lasworth has the ability to make the viewer look long and hard at her work - her intimate style holds our attention. At Asher/Faure Gallery, 612 N. Almont Dr.; thru Dec. 1.

- Michael Anderson