Ethan Greenbaum

Ethan Greenbaum
9 janvier – 6 mars, 2021
pact avec Peter Halley


« Notice » is the third solo show of Ethan Greenbaum at PACT. On this occasion, the artist will release his brand new series on which he has been working for a year now. Greenbaum’s first book is to be released during the show, with the collaboration of Lyles & King Gallery in New York and The French National Center for Visual Arts (CNAP). The book will include a very special interview with Peter Halley, whom Greenbaum has been the assistant.

Interview with Peter Halley :

Peter: The wall pieces in some of your European exhibitions appear to me like simulations of tactile European abstraction. They feel so gestural, but they are totally digitally fabricated, like the piece titled |- (2017).

Ethan: That work was based on photos of hoarding fences. “Hoarding” is the technical term for construction fences, which is much more poetic sounding. I’m drawn to these as a kind of provisional architecture. They signal either decay or some new development going on—a ubiquitous New York situation. They’re also so voyeuristic with all their mandatory and accidental peepholes. The connection to European Abstraction is definitely part of the work. I’ve always loved abstraction and how it can support multiple interpretations. At the same time, I have a fascination with the specifics of the material and cultural world. I often find myself drawn to places where the two seem to meet—like those details of peeling paint on the fence. Photography is a way for me to collect and index these kinds of resemblances.

Peter: I really don’t quite have the in-depth knowledge of semantics to describe what’s going on in your work. But you assign depths to the relief elements that are completely different from what they should be in reality. Yet, since low-relief representation is so convincing to us, we read your work as hyperreal, not illusionistic. It becomes a distorted, alternative world. It’s almost like taking a drug—and seeing space in a different hallucinated way.

Ethan: That psychedelic sensation is important to me. In addition to the hallucinatory experience you’re describing, I remember thinking about how these works reminded me of the misalignment between objects and surfaces in 3D modeling. Many 3D programs use UV textures, which are basically an image skin that wraps around 3D objects and have all sorts of color and visual texture that doesn’t necessarily correspond to a form. I remember seeing this a lot in early 2000s video games—big chunky low-resolution rocks with lots of visual detail like dirt and moss laid on to make them more convincing. I thought about giving my work a similar excess of information, so it had the presence of the real thing while not trying to reproduce it accurately.

Peter: Ok, let’s go back to the beginning—how did you start making art?

Ethan: My parents are both ceramicists. It was the family business and what my brother and I did for entertainment, so making art was one of those givens already happening before it was decided.

Peter: Does your work have anything in common with your parents’ art?

Ethan: I think so. The pliability of clay—its tactility and the way it can make form, is a relationship I always wanted with art. Also, my father built many of our houses, which had a big imprint: seeing our home, with all the emotions and narratives it accrues, begin as raw materials had a something-out-of-nothing magic that stuck with me.

Peter: It strikes me that you’ve never been afraid to explore new processes—just like a ceramicist. When I first got to know you, your memories of growing up in Florida were very vivid. Do you still think of it as a formative influence?

Ethan: Definitely. It’s similar to how I think about my early experiences with clay—there is a physical memory in my body. Ultimately, Florida was a place I was glad to leave and that rejection was formative too. I left this southern, rural existence for grad school and a life in the city.