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New York

JoAnn Verburg

For Now

Upcoming
Jul 9–Aug 21, 2021

JoAnn Verburg's first solo exhibition with the gallery, For Now invites viewers to pause and enter a world of self-reflection while simultaneously diving into landscapes from Italy to California to Israel.

Exhibition Details

JoAnn Verburg
For Now
Jul 9 – Aug 21, 2021

Gallery

540 West 25th Street
New York

Above: JoAnn Verburg, Three to One (for Joel Shapiro), 2020 © JoAnn Verburg

JoAnn Verburg: For Now debuts recent multiple-frame photo and video works by the renowned American photographer depicting olive trees captured on three continents. Exemplifying Verburg’s multidisciplinary practice, which for over four decades has existed at the intersection of a range of art historical traditions including still life and portraiture, these experiential artworks offer a contemplative alternative to the cacophonous urban environment outside of Pace’s gallery space in New York. In response to a period of social and political unrest and a global health crisis, Verburg’s presentation invites viewers to pause and enter a world of self-reflection while simultaneously diving into landscapes from Italy to California to Israel. Generating what she has called an “imagined reality,” her images become vehicles for orchestrating a performative and existential encounter between the viewer and the world.

For Now marks Verburg’s first solo exhibition with Pace since the gallery began representing her in 2020, and her second exhibition in New York since the survey exhibition Present Tense: Photographs by JoAnn Verburg at The Museum of Modern Art in 2007.

Since her last exhibition in New York in 2010, Verburg has been experimenting with the intriguing implications of creating photos, videos, and installations within an urban environment that both acknowledge the environment and provide an escape from it. In this sense, Verburg’s desire to exhibit her images of olive trees in New York reflects her interest in the disjuncture between the contemplative space of the gallery and the busy world outside. Like the pioneering Italian still life artist Giorgio Morandi, Verburg returns repeatedly to the same subject matter—arranging and rearranging her images in three-dimensional space through the use of vantage point, framing, and light, while employing techniques of classical craftsmanship, including the production of each singular print herself. In this printing process, she manipulates elements forward and back in space, creating emphases and clarifying her images by manipulating color like a painter. Having studied sociology as an undergraduate, her artwork also reflects a deep philosophical engagement with the social and formal histories of photography. Further experiences honed her awareness of the work of other key practitioners, especially those who blended the formal aspects of photography with key sociological themes, like Diane Arbus and Robert Frank.

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JoAnn Verburg, Between, 2021, pigment print mounted to Dibond, Edition of 5 + 2 APs © JoAnn Verburg

While the subject matter depicted in For Now is olive trees, the subject of the exhibition itself is the present moment—what Verburg calls “Vermeer time.” For the artist, “Vermeer time”—the name of which evokes the sense of suspended animation that characterizes the paintings of Dutch master Johannes Vermeer—is a present moment that is simultaneously virtually timeless. Photographer, curator, historian, and critic John Szarkowski observed of this quality in her work: “Her pictures describe spaces and moments suspended in the reverie that precedes action . . . Like a Leyden jar, they are containers of potential.” Treating the olive grove as both landscape and still life, her focus on a limited range of subject matter suggests a connection between her work and the Minimalist and serial practices of the 1970s. Yet Verburg’s practice is also aligned with Old Master paintings: they resist the acceleration and velocity of contemporary culture.

During the 2016 earthquakes in Spoleto, Italy, when parts of buildings were falling down around her home, Verburg found her way back to the olive orchards after a long hiatus from photographing them, gravitating to the relative safety of this outdoor environment around her. However, she approached the trees this time with a new perspective, considering their endurance and longevity in relation to her own, and the tempo of their lifecycles, in relation to the lifecycles of birds, rocks, mountains, and other natural beings and elements around her. She first brought along a tape recorder, then a video camera. The video pieces featured in this exhibition allow the artist to add additional dimensions to her work. Verburg’s use of video stretches back to the beginning of her career, when she experimented with early reel-to-reel video technologies during the 1970s. Movement in the videos, however subtle, suggests the passage of time, and the sound from the video works—the rustling of leaves in the wind and other ambient sounds of the groves—expands the sensory experience of the exhibition beyond strictly the visual.

With her first photographs of olive trees in 2007, Verburg discovered ways to render three-dimensional space in a two-dimensional medium, and in returning to this subject in 2016 she was able to employ these discoveries alongside new additions to the body of work. She now felt it necessary to have the images reflect her interest in the generations of people who planted and pruned the trees and also decided to embark on an ongoing project of photographing olive trees on at least three different continents, exploring if and to what extent differences in cultures would be evident. In the body of work on view, olive trees in Europe (Italy), The Middle East (Israel), and North America (United States) are depicted. In this way, each of the pieces also reflects the universal reciprocity of art and nature—just as humans benefit from the olive groves that they also cultivate, audiences of art invest their viewings with their own unique life experiences, and the art in turn reveals meaning for its audience.

On the surface, For Now comprises both moving and still multiple-frame images. However, Verburg’s complex compositions depend entirely on the presence of the viewer—the way the audience completes the photos and videos is of primary interest to her. “In that sense,” she has often said of this interest, “they are like portraits. It’s as though the person in the gallery has just stepped out of the frame and turned around to see the trees and sky behind.” A photograph, she has explained, “only exists when someone is looking at it,” and, similarly, “It’s my hope that the air in the image seems to be the same air that’s in the gallery; that there is no difference.”

It’s as though the person in the gallery has just stepped out of the frame and turned around to see the trees and sky behind.

JoAnn Verburg

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JoAnn Verburg

Distinguished by its extraordinary sensitivity to the energy and sensuality of the natural world, Verburg’s own photographic work combines exquisite color, varied focus, and thoughtful composition to convey the beauty of its subject and setting.

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New York — JoAnn Verburg, For Now, Jul 9–Aug 21, 2021