Emma Webster World in Flux, 2021 oil on linen 60 x 108 in. (152.4 x 274.3 cm.)

Emma Webster
World in Flux, 2021
oil on linen
60 x 108 in. (152.4 x 274.3 cm.)

Emma Webster: Green Iscariot

September 8-October 14, 2021

Alexander Berggruen is pleased to present Emma Webster: Green Iscariot. This exhibition opened Wednesday, September 8, 2021 with a reception from 5-7 pm at the gallery (1018 Madison Avenue, Floor 3).

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.

Installation view of Emma Webster: Green Iscariot (September 8-October 14, 2021) at Alexander Berggruen, NY. Photo: Dario Lasagni

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?

Installation view of Emma Webster: Green Iscariot (September 8-October 14, 2021) at Alexander Berggruen, NY. Photo: Dario Lasagni

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 ran at Alexander Berggruen (1018 Madison Avenue, Floor 3) from September 8-October 14, 2021. The exhibition’s preview is available upon request. For all inquiries, please contact the gallery at info@alexanderberggruen.com.

Emma Webster in the studio Dasha Matsuura

Emma Webster in the studio, Los Angeles, CA. Photo: Dasha Matsuura.

About the Artist

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.

Thirteen new paintings in this Los Angeles-based artist’s current show, at Alexander Berggruen, are windows onto a high-key, ultra-verdant world—a sublime, supernatural realm that combines the thaumaturgic light of the Hudson River School with the watchful marshes and sinuous undergrowth in Disney’s “Maleficent.” […] Perhaps these passionately rendered paintings, which conjure up lashing winds (World in Flux) and wildfires (Weather System), reflect once familiar vistas that have been rendered otherworldly, made hostile by the climate crisis.

Emma Webster A Setting Scene, 2021 oil on canvas 40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm.)

Narration of the catalogue essay “You Cannot Stand in the Middle of This” by Chris Rurik for the exhibition Emma Webster: Green Iscariot is available on Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

Essay and narration by Chris Rurik. Sound by Jonathan Apgar.

Emma Webster Exhibition Catalogue

Emma Webster: Green Iscariot was published on the occasion of the gallery’s eponymous exhibition, which will run from September 8-October 14, 2021. This catalogue features a new essay by naturalist and writer Chris Rurik and a new interview between geographer, writer, and artist Sasha Engelmann and the artist Emma Webster.

In Emma Webster’s self-published book Lonescape, an emerging painter reckons with herself and nature. Originally begun as an examination of landscape in art, the author considers optics of screen and green space in today’s highly theatrical world by collaging images of her roots, isolation, and even psychosis. Lonescape grapples with the ways painting and technology dovetail in immersion, illusion, and the blossoming politics of interdependence.

Emma Webster Lonescape
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