Tickling, scraping, nudging, confining, kissing—these are just a few gerunds from a longer list of gerunds that Judith Belzer has written in a Word document with the exhibition’s title, Contact Hypotheses. Her exhibition contains nearly 200 small paintings of boulders tickling, scraping, nudging, confining, kissing.
Belzer’s new works come from her interest in tensions within and among landscapes, between the natural and manmade. Having previously completed a series of paintings on dams and the Panama Canal, she was lured by what she witnessed at the edges of these monumental structures, where the concrete ends and the terrain begins. It is easy to ascertain how humanity has impacted the natural world, especially since we are now living in the era of the Anthropocene, and continues to transform natural ecologies.
While appearing inert and solid, boulders are also ever-changing. Through erosion, time and contact, they transform shapes, interlock with each other, pile one on top of the other. It is an apt metaphor for how important our relationships are to each other. After a worldwide lockdown, this message has never seemed more resolute.
These paintings also reflect our inclination to collect and order our world, both natural and self-made. It is an attempt to order the chaos, come to a deeper understanding of it, and hopefully, be open to what we cannot see.