Lizbeth Mitty: Legerdemain

8115 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90046
Nov 11, 6 PM - 8 PM — ends Dec 17, 2022
Harper’s is pleased to announce Legerdemain, Lizbeth Mitty’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. Featuring new works produced by Mitty in 2022, the exhibition opens at Harper’s Los Angeles on Friday, November 11th, 6–8pm, with a reception attended by the artist.

The act of legerdemain is distinguished by deception: a clever use of one’s hands when performing magic tricks. For Mitty, the practice of painting is a conjuring trick itself. The Brooklyn-based artist takes a risky, wet-on-wet approach to her paintings, leaving her palette up to the machinations of fate. Through the enigmatic act of painting, Mitty ushers viewers into fantastical geographies, rendering decadent landscapes flush with verdant flora and cerulean seas. Her tranquil, yet energetic scenes tend to evoke a kind of blithe charm one might find flipping through a vacation catalog. In works like Red Table #1 and Black Cake, refreshing cocktails and flamboyant tea cakes adorn sunsets that overlook breathtaking seaside villages. Meanwhile, in the exhibition’s titular work, a house of cards snakes across a surreal tropical landscape, replete with luscious palm trees.

These opulent settings tend to be punctuated with lavish textural elements, emerging from a mark-making process that converges assorted painting methods with collaged material. Sometimes, viscous streams of paint are poured in large quantities directly onto canvas. Other times, the artist drizzles, squirts, and layers paint diffused from plastic bottles. To achieve even further variance in texture, Mitty tears and assembles dried paint onto canvas. This amalgamation of techniques is seen in works like Marina. Here, a pot of brilliant blue flowers—awash with a blend of stippled cyan and indigo—looks over a serene coastal town. Robust swaths of lavender, sprayed into erratic coils and tendrils, serve as sheets of bedrock, thickening mountainous terrain. Beyond the mountains and the rapid waters below, an inviting blue sky carries a river of feathery white clouds, invoking an air of calm across the animate composition.

Formally, Mitty’s compositional arrangements remix traditions of landscape painting. Citing influences like Paul Cezanne, Thomas Cole, and El Greco, the artist is concerned with the nebulous space where representation meets abstraction. To collapse these boundaries, Mitty turns to color. The artist infuses terrestrial lands with prismatic, imagined palettes, saturating the everyday with a spectrum of feelings. Moods take dark twists and turns in works like Red Leaves and Mountain Nocturne, wherein deep tones shadow hushed lands at twilight. In the former, meandering leaves bleed menacing notes of red that haunt the otherwise neutral setting. In the latter, an ominous violet sky threatens to storm over a delectable spread of sweet treats. Together, this clash of aberrant moods, textures, and hues sculpts otherworldly vistas throughout Legerdemain. Across this body of enthralling works, Mitty shows viewers that painting is an alchemical task, demanding equal parts innate sorcery and adept skill.

Written by Daniella Brito

Lizbeth Mitty (b. 1952, Queens, NY) received a BS and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1973 and 1975, respectively. Most recently, her work has been presented at Harper’s, New York (2022); Marcia Wood Gallery, Atlanta (2022); UNTITLED Miami Beach, Miami (2021); Marquee Projects, Bellport, NY (2021); Portrait Society Gallery, Milwaukee (2020); Odetta Gallery, New York (2020); M David & Co., Brooklyn (2019); Caldwell College, Montclair, NJ (2018); and John Davis Gallery, Hudson, NY (2018). Over the course of her career, Mitty has been featured in Art in America, New York Times, and Hyperallergic, among other publications. Her work has been acquired by numerous collections including Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York State Museum, Northwestern Mutual Life, Orlando Museum of Art, and Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University. Mitty currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY