Alexander Berggruen opens an exhibition of works by Emma Webster

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Alexander Berggruen opens an exhibition of works by Emma Webster
Emma Webster, Ungrounded, 2021. Oil on linen, 60 x 84 in. Photo: Marten Elder.

NEW YORK, NY.- Alexander Berggruen is presenting Emma Webster: Green Iscariot.

Emma Webster: Green Iscariot presents vibrant landscapes that combine painting’s rich history of illusion with frontier optics of virtual reality. In her humanless scenes, Webster signals that landscape—and the natural environment as a whole—merits respect. In these new species of space, nature has her own agency and power well beyond that granted by humankind.

Webster’s Iscariot—the surname of Judas the Betrayer—points the finger at humans, for it is we who have betrayed Nature. Or perhaps the traitor is the color green itself. Slippery and fresh, green is the color of sustainable politics, youth and naivete as well as of sickness, envy and jealousy. It may also represent the camouflage of the Chroma Key (or green screen)—a clear deception, a fake promise of what could be, leaving the viewer to ask: is green symbolic of a solution or a delusion?

In Green Iscariot, Webster blurs the line between set and actor, leaving one to ponder whether it is the character or the object that is being staged. In fact, what the stage is altogether? Is the tree the central character or is the entire environment one player?

Webster presents Nature in her own reality, hyper-hued worlds that do not play by the rules or the Laws of Physics. They are a virtual, whimsical hybrid of somewhere that’s green, yet beyond the limits of our optics. Here, familiar and foreign mirages collide. Artificial and real climates meld as Webster invites the viewer to question quixotic conventions and project onto their own green screens.

In Sky Stage, a curtain of clouds arcs upward, enveloping a vermillion sun before crashing into a placid sea. The whitewater vapor erupts into bulbous plumes of wet, thick brushstrokes that swirl almost as if sung from the stage of an opera. In Glen, the swells that shape a taffy pond ripple from the water’s edge across rolling hills. The water’s wake uproots a tree and another trunk arches in support, their leaves intertwined as if holding hands, always interconnected. In Weather System, smoke emerges from a forest fire in weighty tendrils, creating dragon thunderclouds which in turn spark more fires. Thus offering a simple warning for us not to ignore an Earth in peril.

Much like multispecies feminist Donna Haraway who reminds us that the human and nonhuman are inextricably connected and that all earthlings are kin in the deepest sense, Webster leaves us with a safe word. It is unity. For wherever this is, we must be in this place together.

Emma Webster: Green Iscariot will run at Alexander Berggruen (1018 Madison Avenue, Floor 3) from September 8-October 14, 2021.

This exhibition marks Emma Webster’s first solo show with Alexander Berggruen, following her inclusion in the gallery’s group show Animal Kingdom (June 26-August 29, 2020).

Emma Webster (b. 1989, Encinitas, CA) received a BA in Art Practice at Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA in 2011 and an MFA in Painting at Yale University, New Haven, CT in 2018. The British-American artist has been an artist-in-residence at Anderson Ranch Painting Residency, Snowmass, CO; Vermont Studio Center Residency, Johnson, VT; and Ox-Bow Artist Residency, Saugatuck, MI. Webster has received the Raina Giese Award in Creative Painting and the Academy of Art University Award for Best Figure Drawing. Recent exhibitions include: Carl Kostyál, London, United Kingdom; Diane Rosenstein, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Art & History, Lancaster, CA; Mana Contemporary, Jersey City, NJ; Woskob Gallery with Maake Magazine, Penn State, PA; and Spinnerei (Pilotenkueche), Leipzig, Germany. She has been featured in publications including: Artforum International, New American Painting, Los Angeles Times, and Artsy. Webster lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

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