Until August 20th. Pace, 540 West 25th Street, Manhattan; 212-421-3292, pacegallery.com.
The images of olive trees in California, Israel and Italy that make up “For Now”, JoAnn Verburg’s current exhibition at Pace, are radiant, enigmatic and a kind of ruse; Verburg’s real theme is time and how it is experienced. The photography and video works with several frames, lavishly textured and rendered with devotion, function as Delphic objects, portals to nature. Of course, an air-conditioned gallery is far from nature, but the power of Verburg’s pictures is so great that, even if they don’t take you into the silence of the Umbrian countryside, you feel like they could, and the small Gravity between these ideas is temporarily removed.
The interplanar effect is enhanced by a few formalistic flourishes. Verburg, who like Morandi returns to his bottles to olive trees, uses a vintage large format camera (the bellows type) that allows for trippy swings in focus. Background, foreground and middle ground shift within the same composition. The cartilage of a tree trunk turns into velvet and is sharpened again. A close-up of some young olive trees is so intimate that it seems intrusive while the canopy line behind it blurs into broccoli florets, but in a sequential panel the effect is reversed, a review of photography’s claim to the decisive moment. Here, as in reality, there are endless possibilities of viewing.
The uninhabited air of the groves is also a kind of trick. These are working farms that are looked after and managed. But people appear here only sparsely, covered by branches, seemingly lost in thought. Their presence disrupts both the dream and a connection. Verburg is less interested in capturing the truth of a particular moment than in creating the conditions for that moment to exist forever. The video works in particular, with their chirping of birds and the gently dispersing fog, suggest anticipation for something to come, which of course is never the case. Time moves on and then runs back on itself. It’s just you and the trees and the gallery keeper as long as you are all there.
Until August 15th. Mother Gallery, 1154 North Avenue, Beacon, NY 845-236-6039, mothergallery.art.
Marshmallow-shaped boulders roll up and down mountains or drift past misty waterfalls in the dozen of small paintings by Joshua Marsh’s “Cascades” in the Mother Gallery. Only painted with cobalt blue, permanent green, bone black and titanium white – together with a little orange for the first and last of the series – they look eerie. The blue, while vivid, isn’t placeable – not quite sky, ocean, or even swimming pool – and the green is reminiscent of both toxic gases and early video games.
Marsh, who studied at Yale and now lives near the gallery in Beacon, introduces the boulders in each of his four colors and makes them appear like stable terms in a simple imagery. (The four basic boulders appear neatly arranged in “Shiii …”) But the scenery in which they are placed quickly makes them ambiguous. Do the two boulders in “Elevation” black climb a slope over a shimmering pool at night or just in the shade? What about the couple in “Shh”? Seen through a thick green mist – or reflected in a shallow green puddle – they definitely look green. But is it you?
Five small but labor-intensive drawings on display in an adjacent hallway complement the boulder arrangements – a fallen tree trunk, a distant fence, a pile of rotting fruit – with a more specific natural backdrop and offer an invigorating sound contrast. (It’s “Lord of the Rings” to the legend of Zelda the paintings.) By demonstrating how dramatically his idea changes when he switches from color to pencil, Marsh further complicates his language and suggests that any sense of stability is only is a passing illusion.
Until August 20th. James Fuentes, 55 Delancey Street, Manhattan, (212) 577-1201, jamesfuentes.com.
The legacy of Robert Earl Davis Jr., better known by his stage name DJ Screw, reverberates about two decades after his death in 2000 at the age of 29 “remixes that slowed, distorted, and re-recorded tracks from local rappers and pop radios combined to pave a genre of distinctive southern hip-hop. Its influence, felt in pop music, has made its way into the mainstream art world, with a retrospective at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston that closed last spring.
At the James Fuentes Gallery, an exhibition of eight collaged paintings by Cameron Spratley Screws literally and metaphorically adapts mash-up sensibility onto the canvas. The exhibition entitled “In the Air Tonight” based on Screws Remix from Phil Collins’s hit parade from 1981 demonstrates the fluency with which Spratley processes and rearranges found images of various objects such as blades, mechanical parts and cartoons. All but one of the works are large-format and flood the viewer with layers of highly saturated photos, texts and painterly details that revolve around themes of harsh masculinity, violence and protest.
Chrome fittings and steel knives are a recurring motif, as seen in “Apocalypse Painting (Hunker Down)” from 2021, in which drawings and photos of the sharp weapons are littered with bullet holes. In “Strawberry Midnight” (2021) the screws and knives are layered over an illustration of a spinal cord; A clipping of a newspaper headline announcing the arrest of protesters is displayed next to the right side of the screen and alludes to the serious injuries police inflicted in order to suppress contemporary social movements. Spratley delivers these juxtapositions with cool restraint and uses the visual arsenal of the American mass media.