Gallerynote 2/2024

June 1 to July 19, 2024

Glen Rubsamen
The Petrified Forest

Glen Rubsamen, born in Los Angeles in 1957, is a portraitist of the anthropogenic built environment with a strong Californian flavor.In his paintings, he depicts the absurd excesses of urban landscapes in sharp silhouettes set against the surreal colors of dawn or dusk.

Using previously photographed urban infrastructure, commercial advertising and vegetation, he creates superficially seductive, yet subtly abysmal snapshots of American life.

Annemarie Verna Gallery is pleased to present The Petrified Forest, a selection of photographs taken by Glen Rubsamen in Los Angeles in 2023. These photographs serve as the basis for his paintings. The artist offers a glimpse into his archive while taking us on a deeply personal journey through his hometown.



Text by Glen Rubsamen for the exhibition The Petrified Forest, 2024

“When I was very young and first heard about the Petrified Forest I assumed the forest had been turned to stone because Medusa had looked upon it. I had a children’s picture-book version of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in German (both my parents emigrated from Germany to the US and spoke German at home in Los Angeles). I remember believing that Medusa’s gaze turned not only men into stone but anything male – and in German “der Wald” is most definitely male. To complicate matters, I conflated the meanings of “petrified,” assuming that this stone forest was also scared, mortified, and in some way astonished by the fact. If you are petrified, you are frightened, so frightened that you cannot think or move: thus immobility became an attribute of fear. For me, this misunderstanding evolved into a kind of world view where inanimate objects started to acquire a fear of death. Not only objects, but complex structures made up of inanimate objects, like cars and roads and buildings. Suddenly, I imagined the whole city, Los Angeles, possessed by a kind of thanatophobia. This was validated by the film noir movies on television, which depicted an urbanism both malicious and fearful. Archie Mayo’s 1936 noir classic The Petrified Forest, starring Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and Leslie Howard, was one of the movies that I watched when I got home from school in the Hollywood Hills. For me, Los Angeles was at its most “petrified” at dusk or dawn, the penumbra on the edges of day and night. Later, in my teens, I became an umbraphile, obsessed with any object that blocked the sun and revealed complex shadows.

The process of petrification or fossilization is extremely fickle and complex. A tree must be buried in mud or silt for millennia so it is completely turned to stone by permineralization. All the organic matter (such as cellulose) is replaced with minerals (mostly silicates, such as quartz), which retain the original structure. The petrified object becomes a relic: a three-dimensional sculptural representation of the organic original. For me, this is an analogy for an urbanism in which a city’s older elements are replaced by new ones, but the older structures and systems remain. The photos in this exhibition document this urban petrification in a thousand tiny details. The direction of the sun, property rights, the flow of traffic, the arbitrary decisions of corporate capitalism, the fertility of the soil, the social class of the neighborhood, energy and lethargy – these all contribute to ongoing metamorphoses. As new elements appear in the cityscape, the older ones are subsumed but they still dictate limits on position and orientation.
A photograph is a type of petrification. It creates simulacra: recognizable appearances, preserving states of being, capturing a city’s movements and appearances, rendering them timeless. Like the petrifaction enacted by Medusa’s gaze, photography is the most prolific creator of “visual” statuary. The photograph becomes the relic, eliciting an interplay between self-sustaining and self-effacing, between the tension of the verbal and visual spheres of representation, between the mimetic and the enigmatic, life and death, presence and absence. These photographs of Los Angeles, all taken in 2023, mark the sixty-fifth year of my attempt to comprehend this city. Medusaville is empowered through our own imagination, while her appearance, necessarily unknown, remains elusive.”


Exhibitions / Insight

INSIGHT #3 spotlights the graphic work of Fred Sandback through three examples from 1974 and 1982.


Dan Flavin, Widmungen aus Licht, Kunstmuseum Basel
2. März bis 18. August 2024

Joseph Egan , Mixing Colors (with Andrea Alteneder),
nano Raum für Kunst Zürich , May 22 to June 7, 2024

Rita McBride, Momentum,
Dia Beacon,
Beacon, NY,
July 1, 2023 to January 2025

Sol LeWitt (1928–2007)
A Wall Drawing Retrospective
Yale University Art Gallery and Williams College Museum of Art
November 16, 2008 – 2033

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