Art by Josephine Halvorson, On the Ground

Alumna Josephine Halvorson '07 in Solo Exhibit 'On The Ground'

BY Audrey Deng, March 2, 2020

This past month, work by alumna Josephine Halvorson ’07 has been on view at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. gallery in New York. The solo show is titled Josephine Halvorson: On the Ground. The title of the show takes its name from Halvorson’s eponymous essay published in Art in America.

According to the website, “Each painting registers an area of ground through Halvorson’s close observation and pictorial description, while its accompanying surround incorporates crushed rocks and debris from the site of the painting’s making. Together, they realize a faithful translation of place and time. The work in this exhibition was made in the Berkshire mountains, the Mojave Desert, and Matanzas, Cuba.”


'Ground Panorama, Boundary Marker,' 2019, Gouache and site material on panel, 36 x 132 inches

Using gouache, a fast drying medium, Halvorson is able to record her experience with the ground in real time, as it were—like handwriting. Her previous use of oils took the course of a day to dry; gouache is more immediate, less susceptible to change. “Like a map,” says the gallery, “[the paintings] depict the literal scape of the ground while offering an escape from mimesis...They ask how we make sense of what we see, how we express that witnessing, and how an account of experience is made concrete.”

These magnifications, by dint of enlarging, seem to carry great significance. But, as the Brooklyn Rail notes, “We may affix interpretations to the image, but that has nothing to do with what Halvorson is giving us. These fascinating bits of reconstructed nature, like Pessoa’s imaginary river, don’t make us think about anything. They are what they are, nothing more, nothing less: splendid in their minute sparsity.”


'Ground Panorama, Gravel Track,' 2019, Gouache and site material on panel, 36 x 132 inches

From the same article, the author says, “these outstanding paintings take landscape painting as a genre in a new direction, focusing on the insignificant rather than the infinite.”

The show closed on February 29.

Halvorson is an artist based in Massachusetts. She attended The Cooper Union School of Art, Yale Norfolk, and continued her interdisciplinary education at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.