Until August 20. 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 Pace show, are resplendent, enigmatic, and a sort of sham; The real subject of Verburg is time and how it is experienced. The richly textured and devoutly rendered multi-frame photographic and video works function as Delphic objects, portals to nature. Of course, an air-conditioned gallery is far from nature, but the power of Verburg’s images is such that while they don’t exactly transport you to the stillness of the Umbrian countryside, you feel like they could, and the low gravity between these ideas is momentarily erased.
The interplanar effect is enhanced by some formalistic flourishes. Verburg, who returns to olive trees like Morandi to his bottles, uses a vintage large-format camera (the bellows kind), which allows for trippy focus swings. The background, foreground, and middle of the shot move within a single composition. The knotting of a tree trunk twists in velvet and sharpens. A glamorous close-up of some young olive trees is so intimate it’s intrusive, as the canopy line behind them turns into broccoli florets, but in a sequential panel the effect is reversed, a control over the claim photography at the decisive moment. Here, as in reality, the ways of looking are endless.
The uninhabited air of the thickets is also a kind of trick. They are working, neat and messy farms. But people appear here sparingly, obscured by branches, seemingly lost in thought. Their presence both disturbs the dream and provides a bond. Verburg is less interested in capturing the truth of a particular moment than in creating the conditions for that moment to exist in perpetuity. The video works in particular, with their bird song and gently dissipating mist, suggest the anticipatory energy of something to come, which of course never does. Time progresses then loops back on itself. There is only you and the trees and the guardian of the gallery, 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 rise and fall from mountains or drift past misty waterfalls in the dozen small paintings of Joshua Marsh’s “Waterfalls” at the Mother Gallery. Painted only with cobalt blue, permanent green, bone black, and titanium white – with a bit of orange for the first and last in the series – they have a weird effect. Blue, while vivid, is impossible to place – not quite the sky, sea, or even the pool – and green evokes both poison gas and early video games.
Marsh, who studied at Yale and now lives near the Beacon Gallery, presents the rocks in each of its four colors, making them appear as stable terms in simple visual language. (The four basic rocks appear, neatly arranged, in “Shiii….”) But the landscape in which they are placed quickly makes them ambiguous. Do the two rocks climb a slope above a glistening night pool in black “Elevation” or just in the shade? What about the pair in “Shh”? Seen through dense green fog – or reflected in a flat green puddle – they certainly have to see green. But are they?
Five small but labor-intensive designs, displayed in an adjacent hallway, add a more specifically realized natural landscape to the rock arrangements – a fallen log, a distant fence, a pile of rotten fruit – providing an invigorating tonal contrast. (It’s “The Lord of the Rings” in the Legend of Zelda paintings.) Demonstrating how her idea changes dramatically when she switches from pencil painting, Marsh complicates her language even further, suggesting that any sense of stability is only a passing illusion. .
Until August 20. James Fuentes, 55 Delancey Street, Manhattan, (212) 577-1201, jamesfuentes.com.
The legacy of Robert Earl Davis Jr., more commonly recognized by his stage name DJ Screw, continues to resonate twenty years after his death in 2000 at the age of 29. In the early 1990s in Houston, he started producing tapes of “remixes that slowed down, distorted and recombined tracks from local rappers and pop radio to kick off a distinctly southern hip-hop genre. His influence, which has been palpable in pop music, has spilled over into the traditional art world, with a retrospective at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston that closed its doors last spring.
At the James Fuentes Gallery, an exhibition of eight collage paintings by Cameron Spratley adapts the sensitivity of Screw’s mash-up to canvas, literally and metaphorically. Entitled “In the Air Tonight,” after Screw’s remix of the 1981 Phil Collins single, the exhibition demonstrates the ease with which Spratley edits and rearranges found images of various objects such as blades, mechanical parts and cartoons. All but one of the pieces are large-scale, flooding the viewer with layers of highly saturated photos, text, and pictorial detail that revolve around themes of masculinity, violence, and protest.
Chrome hardware and steel knives are a recurring motif, as seen in “Apocalypse Painting (Hunker Down)” from 2021, in which designs and photos of the edged weapons are pockmarked by images of bullet holes. In “Strawberry Midnight” (2021), screws and knives are superimposed on an illustration of a spinal cord; a clipping from a newspaper headline announcing the arrest of protesters is pasted to the right of the canvas, alluding to the serious injuries inflicted by the police to suppress contemporary social movements. Spratley delivers these juxtapositions with a cold reserve, using the visual arsenal of American mass media.