The publication of Lisa Ruyter: One Million Postcards (Skarabaeus Press, $26) offers a virtual catalog raisonné of 14 years of Lisa Ruyter’s work. The book has a very October-magazine-style essay, printed in English and German, by Martin Prinzhorn and an interview with Ruyter, also in both languages, by Michael Cohen. One revelation: Lisa had quit painting at age 28 and was enjoying her work as a publicist (!) when Marilyn Minter forcibly sent her to Peter Halley’s studio to work there.
Holding these images in your hand, One Million Postcards becomes a startling flipbook of the postmodern holocaust, a conviction that the interface between referential high culture and the world out there will end in nothing but searing tragedy.
Ruyter’s repeated method of overlaying dark, light-absorbing primary colors over fields of lyrical brightness drugs you as you turn the pages. Distinctions of various subject streams, so apparent in her different and successful solo shows over the years, turn into a steady whipping in the pages of a book, a kind of anti-pleasure. Only when she pictures herself in a stream of muted grays does one get a sense of relief. The yield of distinctions that one sees in Warhol’s "Shadows" and "Skulls" series, where light offers a respite, are absent in Ruyter’s reproduction. The effect is similar to Glenn Branca’s orchestra of guitars or the omnivorous overlay and sucking in of Godard’s Masculin Féminin: no rest for the weary granted here.
Subjective equivalencies abound, as drunken shitheads at a party turn into placid but threatening forests. Rarely has beauty been so intense, yet self-nullifying in a career of paintings. We are left thinking of Mother Theresa’s recently revealed letters of anguish, as if the absence of God demands lip service nevertheless. Such are the harsh demands of Ruyter’s jagged fields of color, the most unforgiving since Clyfford Still. Long may she wave her dark, dense flag.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).