Asya Geisberg Gallery is pleased to present “Sorry for the Damage” by Marjolijn de Wit, an exhibition of oil paintings by the Netherlands-based artist. Exuberant and lush, the paintings are in a relatively small scale for the artist, whose oeuvre includes larger canvases and floor installations, as well as collage based works that are inspired by or incorporate ceramic pieces. In her third solo exhibition, De Wit hones in on the startling disconnect between the advertising and the editorial content of National Geographic magazines from the 1970’s and 80’s. Seen from the vantage point of our time, the articles and imagery that promote the wonders and diversity of the earth are negated by a lifestyle bent on our planet’s ruination. Extraction of gems, minerals, or fossil fuels, luxury underpinned by unseen carbon footprints; food delivered from every corner in every season at an environmental cost; these issues have grown more prominent today. Nonetheless, her paintings are not meant to hector. De Wit throws together isolated symbols with the seamlessness of deftly-handled oil paint, as she adamantly luxuriates in her medium. Her jewel-like paintings flutter their painterly eyelashes at us, coyly cooing into our psyches. Schematic compositions resist clear readings, as each opaque yet aesthetically jarring composition provokes the viewer to parse De Wit’s connections.
Each painting begins with a landscape background, romanticized and abstracted beyond easy recognition. Objects and fragments in the foreground leap in scale and reference point. In “Elegant and Exclusive”, gaudy gold watches intrude on the borders of a buttery multicolored moth. In “Rebalance”, a dolphin earring catches the corner of a canvas covered in rhythmic pine needles that themselves look like sinuous dangly earrings. A pink curlicue in “Strikingly, Excitingly, Destructively, or Mysteriously Different”- a gift-wrap scrap – suggests a bit of festivity, but when multiplied and abandoned festers into a pollutant. The backgrounds play out varying scenarios of nature: fading away and exhausted, carved mountains being mined, or a commercialized playland for humans who ignore their ravagings. De Wit uses techniques familiar from past work: mirroring, fragmentation, using a Neo Rauch-like shorthand for illustration and commercial photography, or making an image within an image – chocolates shaped like seashells or accessories as cheap pastiche.
Having immersed herself in the specific time frame of fifty years ago, De Wit recognizes the “plus ça change” aspect – we have gotten no closer to ameliorating our distraction amid the earth’s destruction. Similarly, while print has lost its shine over the last half century, the advertising and content oxymorons persist. De Wit has a knack for making even the familiar seem “off”, askew, or elusive. Layers merge, imagery beckons but plays hard to get. The cascade builds, and it’s clear the project will march onward, so that we might reconsider and slow down our march towards indifference and oblivion.