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Lauren Satlowski, "Bad Santa" (2020), oil on linen, 40 x 30 inches (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

LOS ANGELES — In a year like no other we finish out the last celebrations of the holiday season with a mix of trepidation and hope. With COVID-19 numbers spiking and a vaccine currently being administered, there are a lot of conflicting feelings and a general sense of pandemic (and holiday) fatigue. The carefully crafted paintings of Lauren Satlowski’s Watch the Bouncing Ball at Bel Ami, all made in 2020, reflect the angst and solitude of the present moment, while thankfully leaving out any mention or use of face masks.

Lauren Satlowski, “Me Worry”(2020), oil on linen, 18 x 24 inches

In a direct nod to the season, “Bad Santa” best summarizes the uncanny mood of the exhibition. Partially illuminated and caught in limbo between protruding and receding from the picture plane, Santa’s “badness” is both profound yet mysterious, as if what makes him bad is hard to pin down. Satlowski brings this same muddled anxiety to “Me Worry,” a painting in which a circular patch referencing Mad Magazine’s “What — Me Worry?” slogan floats, smashed between two glass panes. A few kidney beans dotting the surrounding area symbolize abundance, i.e. food, and another nearby painting similarly titled “Help” seems to be a direct reference to the unequally felt and ongoing financial woes this health crisis has brought, partly seen in the rise of food bank use.  

Lauren Satlowski, “Help” (2020), oil on linen, 20 x 16 inches

Across the exhibition, Satlowski weaves a loose narrative of the year’s unease and yet, much like the underlying promises of the upcoming new year, she never quite delivers us what we most crave — resolve.

Installation view, Watch the Bouncing Ball at Bel Ami, Los Angeles

Lauren Satlowski: Watch the Bouncing Ball continues at Bel Ami (709 N. Hill Street, Chinatown, Los Angeles) through February 13, 2021.

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Jennifer Remenchik

Jennifer Remenchik is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles.

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