Gagosian to open American Polychronic, an exhibition of new photographs by Roe Ethridge that shares its title with the recently published first comprehensive survey of the artist’s work from 1999 to 2022.
Moving within and between photographic genres, from art historically informed portraiture and still-life composition to the styled and coded world of the fashion shoot and the bottomless well of stock and online imagery, Ethridge juxtaposes staged scenes with chanced-upon vignettes, pursuing a formal language that trades in visual friction and the wry transgression of structural rules. His ever-expanding catalogue of hybrid images reflects the textures of contemporary American society, expanding on a formal sensibility peculiar to the “generic Methodist, Southern, middle-class world” in which he grew up.“Polychronic essentially means to do more than one thing at a time,” Ethridge explains of the exhibition’s title. “It’s also a way to describe a cultural notion of time. In the moment, it feels like we are all polychronic by choice or by necessity.” Thus, the term connotes the influence of overlapping contexts on the unfolding of events across a multiverse of images. In Ethridge’s new monograph, images produced for exhibition over the course of twenty-four years are arranged from oldest to most recent, while commercial and editorial photographs appear in the opposite order. The much more focused selection of works on view in the exhibition makes use of the New York gallery space to highlight resonances between the images; in its restrained design, the installation forms an effective counterpoint to the densely packed feel of the book.
Story of my life up to now or Red Tray with Mushroom Clock (2022), a new work not featured in the book, is the exhibition’s defining image. Echoing the collage-like effect of Ethridge’s iconic Refrigerator (1999), this still-life photograph depicts an assortment of objects, including the titular kitschy ceramic timepiece. Placed on the left of the shot, it marks the starting point of a loose autobiographical narrative. FvK Double Trouble (2022) is more concerned with the camera’s relationship to its own products. The titular initialism, which stands for “Fuji versus Kodak,” alludes to a corporate opposition that embodies the artifice of the medium, restaging the history of photography as a story of technological advancement. This work too recalls Refrigerator’s vernacular grid, and shows Ethridge standing coolly back from his subjects rather than presenting them as aspects of an intuitive modus operandi.
ROE ETHRIDGE, American Polychronic, Opening reception: Friday, January 13th, 6–8pm
January 13th–February 25th, 2023, Gagosian, 976 Madison Avenue, New York
American Polychronic, which features an essay by Jamieson Webster and an interview with the artist by Antwaun Sargent, was published by Mack Books in 2022.
About the artist
Roe Ethridge was born in 1969 in Miami and lives and works in New York. Collections include the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Tate, London. Solo exhibitions include Momentum 4, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2005); Selected Works, Charles Riva Collection, Brussels (2012); Le Consortium, Dijon, France (2012, traveled to Museum Leuven, Belgium); and Nearest Neighbor, FotoFocus Biennial, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (2016). Ethridge’s work was included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial. In 2011 he was shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize.