Yossi Milo is pleased to share a presentation of works by Maine-based painter Lauren Luloff in the Qube, a hybrid exhibition space which provides dynamic online programming as a companion to the gallery's viewing room. Works by Luloff will be on view in person and online through June 17.

Lauren Luloff’s (b. 1980; Dover, NH) works translate landscapes into the realm of the subconscious, interpolating color relationships found in nature into her own pictorial codes. In abstractions dyed into the surface of her silk works, the artist tells hidden narratives pulled from her surroundings, drawing from a well of sensations and memories to generate subliminal stories. At once evocative in content and adventurous in material, Luloff’s works render dreamscapes and hypnotic patterns across a delicate silk surface.

This material choice is descended from a lineage of careful experimentation. Luloff’s prior bodies of work used found bedsheets, bleach, and hand-rendered patterns to create collages of texture, bodies, and flora that told wordless narratives.

Having grown up along the coast in New Hampshire, Luloff has a near-spiritual connection to the ocean and bodies of water, and has continually sought communion with them as an element of her practice. At a residency in Cassis, along the shores of the French Riviera, Luloff greatly shifted her process, focusing it into the singular medium in which she works to this day. There, on the Mediterranean coast, the artist began dyeing her images directly into the surface of silk. Since then, she has painted using this highly specific method both en plein air and indoors in her studio, taking an intuitive approach, incorporating emotional reactions to color and form in intricate and methodical abstractions.

After more than two decades of working in New York, Luloff relocated with her family to Lubec, a coastal community in Maine just shy of the Canadian border. Immersing her daily life in nature, the artist lives surrounded by the natural beauty of the East Coast. Today, Luloff creates images that reimagine elements of these immediate surroundings; trees, paths, flowers, and water can be found throughout the fields of her work.

It seems my material exploration has often obscured the underlying subject matter. In a way that's sort of nice, because my stories remain secret and unobserved to many people. The viewers’ response is such a reflection of themselves, and I've always cherished the inherent disparity in how any two people see a work of art.

(Lauren Luloff)

Lubec (2022) dissolves its namesake scenery into dancing patterns of tessellated color, deploying repeating waves and running stripes to give the impression of a cool, sunlit day. A teardrop-shaped opening floats across a checkered blanket-like field, creating a portal to a forest scene rendered in pixel-like dots. Within their precise array, red blooms peek through the darkness of a forest beyond. Repeated checkers and grids behave like domestic textiles and interpreted natural features at the same time, weaving the artist’s wonder at her surroundings to the mundane and comforting reality of thread.

Nature’s beauty has informed the artist’s encrypted imagery long before her time in Lubec, Cassis, or even New York, and landscape elements act as foundational players in her work. The combination of natural imagery and textile recalls the florals found in cloth objects associated with the home and body. Bedsheets, scarves, blouses, and curtains find their motifs echoed in her works; crops of florals, waves of stripes, and patches of tiled dots neighbor one another on their surfaces. In this way, Luloff imagines whole scenes within the boundaries of a fabric surface, expanding into dreamlike landscape works.

In Untitled (2022-2023), organic form and human logic create an autumnal sonata through their interplay. Luloff’s reliable grid renders pure pattern along the margins of the work, while a torrent of stripes runs down its center. Images recalling fall leaves and night skies are tucked into the corners and margins, contrasted by a single, clearly drawn leaf. Enclosing both the tiled repetitions and the natural shapes is a checkered border, which imposes a Mondrian-like logic of right angles atop the freer seasonal impression seen behind.

A wonder at scenery, flora, and landscape is Luloff’s motivation, but in her work, it finds itself liberated into abstraction through a focused approach as it permeates through her grids. In imposing the rigidity of right angles and repeated patterns onto organic forms and vivid tones, the artist translates her pastoral surroundings into a constructed language, utilizing a keen eye to render real and imagined depictions alike within this structure. Still, passages of blurred forms and runaway stripes peek out from and flit through her grids, illustrating how easily nature flaunts the dominion sought by humankind.

In Pink Tree, Yellow Stairs (2022), a plume of rosy foliage floats in the upper half of the work, casting a cool shadow over waves rendered in dots. These repeated forms are “running dog” motifs, a reference to ancient mosaic design tropes which creates a ceramic contrast to the silk’s soft, airy materiality. A border of green and purple encloses the work, the edges of an abstracted meadow, above which floats a checkered yellow staircase, a symbol Luloff meditates on and repeats across her works. Throughout the composition are vibrating passages of stripes and grids that convey the heat of the sun and damp of the shade. Luloff’s structured forms and playful references crisscross the surface of the work to turn a layer of silk into the space of a garden, itself containing forms and techniques that alternate between soft and hard, structured and organic.

The very nature of Luloff’s medium mirrors this underlying tension between rigidity and softness- the lightness of silk barely exerts control over the dye imparted onto its surface, and each area of color tempts an escape into the next, their borders overlapping ever so slightly. Each mark made on the surface of silk with dye is irreversible- as it absorbs fully into the fabric, it becomes an inherent part of it. This imbues Luloff’s intuitive process with a constant finality, as every gesture in dye is permanent. It recalls the practice of stain painting, popularized by color field painters like Joan Miró and Helen Frankenthaler in the early and middle-20th century, who released their grasp over their materials by pouring liquid paint directly onto raw canvas. Luloff draws on this reference while exercising a mastery in her technique, which she shows off to eye-dazzling effect. The artist’s precise patterns and abstract passages dance together, creating transportive scenes in silk.

Lauren Luloff’s (b. 1980; Dover, NH) compositions, oscillating at times between abstract portraiture, a kind of en plein air neo-pointillism, and subconscious storytelling, marry the artist’s diverse inspirations, including the deep and loving bonds of family, the Edenic nature surrounding her studio in Maine, and a history of human design that spans from ancient mosaics and patterned fabric up to contemporary digital reproduction. These themes are translated, pixelated, abstracted, and delineated through the framework of the artist’s grids, which play a foundational role in her work.

Employing a similar logic to Agnes Martin or Jennifer Bartlett, Luloff’s paintings are not about perfection. Rather, her grids, rendered free-from by the human hand, provide a platform for experimentation and play. They act as a structure in her work that gives a foundation for the sumptuous dance of her painting, and whose malleable rules inspire direction and bend to discovery.

Luloff’s practice has always centered around her medium and vehicle for her painting: fabric. The artist’s early work, which Roberta Smith described in the New York Times as having “knocked [her] out”, involved painting cotton bed sheets with bleach. This technique was central to her practice until a 2015 residency in Cassis, France that coincided with her pregnancy, which made the use of such harsh chemicals hazardous to her unborn son. There, living and working in the natural splendor of Southern France, the artist began dyeing landscapes into silk.

In the years since this residency, silk has become the signature medium of Luloff’s practice, painted with a style that has vibrated between figuration and abstraction. In 2021, after almost two decades of living and working in New York, the artist relocated her studio to Maine, which motivated a return to nature and landscape in her compositions in a strikingly beautiful way.