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LASSITER, CHARLES
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Charles Lassiter
 
Lassiter was born in New York and received a degree in sociology from Yale University and in art education from NYU.  He went on to study at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Brooklyn Museum Art School with Reuban Tam, Sidney Simon and Ann Poor.  His entire career has been devoted to the pursuits of painting and drawing, starting with a group show at the MOMA in 1956.  Lassiter’s work has been exhibited worldwide and is in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale University Art Gallery, Carnegie Institute Modern Art Gallery and the Brooklyn Museum Print Collection.
Charles Lassiter has created a contemporary vocabulary in his paintings which are original, instinctive and emanate from his ability to immediately reinterpret the world.  Lively, calligraphic figures are engaged in a dance on an unknown and unknowable backdrop oddly disconnected to the outside world.  His figures emerge from an idiosyncratic use of line, suggesting total spontaneity, yet are too consistent and too effective to be the result of pure spontaneity alone.  The result is a magical type of portraiture which seems to embody the entire life experience and prevailing mood of the subject in a single line.  Like a spider and her web, the paintings of Charles Lassiter indicate a deliberate, delicate construction with the full extent of his narrative magic discernible only through close inspection.
Each painting forms a story, hence the reference to “glyphs.”  His narratives, reminiscent of musing poetry, reveal the inner workings of the subjects portrayed.  Like all “word pictures,” Lassiter’s glyphs require time and contemplation from the viewer to be fully realized.  Some paintings are “read” left to right, some are vertical and some have a more circular tale to tell.  In any event, the viewer is engaged in a delightful game of discovery and quickly finds the joy, irony and beauty of Lassiter’s whimsical commentary.  His satires are never cruel but do touch on a core truth which is a perfect hybrid of reality, instinct and interpretation.
Lassiter uses the city as a touchstone for his parodies and portraits.  As a native New Yorker, this city in all its real and symbolic cacophony has had a tremendous influence on the artist.  In his work, Lassiter touches on the city’s metaphoric role as dream-maker, spoiler and center for moral chaos and enjoys a certain connection with his subjects.  His plein aire painting and sketching often has him working in New York’s Central Park, observing people who are often unaware of their immortalization on paper or canvas.
The bright lights, fast pace and frenetic noise of the city appear in Lassiter’s work in the discreetly patterned backdrops of lines and colors, which he provides as a playground for his figures and as a resting place for the probing eyes of his viewers.  In a wild urban landscape, his paintings become modern glyphs to reinterpret a busy world.
Lassiter’s art may be favorably compared to Jean Dubuffet’s raw and primitive renderings.  His paintings are not of this world but are a precise vision of some inner sense of his being.