Umbrella and soggy notebook in hand, I sprinted into Hales Gallery on a rainy day in New York City. Jamaican artist Ebony G. Patterson’s collaged ecosystems embody the antithesis of a gloomy, rainy day. Indeed, the current exhibition of Patterson’s work, entitled …to dig between the cuts, beneath the leaves, below the soil… has immersed the white cube in flora and fauna that radiates off the walls, transforming the gallery space into a garden.
The exhibition includes six large-scale collages, each of which contains its own particular ecosystem. Analogous to the romantic phrases that serve as the title of each collage, Patterson’s formal practice traces a poetics of the garden — meditating on the entropy and delicate elegance of our natural and built environments. Each collage is rich with allegory and significance. There are real, preserved butterflies that evoke life, and handcrafted ones that reveal the artist’s touch. Snakes and other creatures portray the biblical influence in Patterson’s work, and items such as discarded toys and shoes that appear seemingly out of place in the lush vegetation, alluding perhaps to a human presence.
The symbolism present throughout Patterson’s work forms a semiotic web in which Christianity, British greeting cards, and plants native to Jamaica are foundational to the composition of these collages. These influences mobilize the philosophical inquiries of Patterson’s creations: notions of life and death, (trans)plants and the concept of “native” versus “foreign” species of flora and fauna, and nature and the built environment. This recent body of work on view at Hales Gallery is a phenomenal supplement and counterpart to Patterson’s traveling solo exhibition — …while the dew is still on the roses… — presently on view at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky through January 5, 2020.
Ebony G. Patterson …to dig between the cuts, beneath the leaves, below the soil… continues at Hales New York (547 West 20th Street, Chelsea) through December 20.