Pareidolia, a curated group show at Emmanuel Barbault

I had the great fortune to work with Emmanuel Barbault Gallery in co curating Pareidolia, a group show with works by Corey Escoto, Eliot Greenwald, and Elizabeth Ferry.

Emmanuel Barbault Gallery is pleased to announce Pareidolia, an exhibition co-curated by Emmanuel Barbault and Derek Weisberg featuring three New York based artists.

The Virgin Mary in toast, the man in the moon, a Rorschach inkblot test, Rubin’s vase are all examples of pareidolia. Pareidolia is “the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern” (Merriam-Webster). The term comes from the Greek words “para”, meaning beside or beyond, and “eidolon”, meaning form or image. This is a psychological phenomenon in which a vague random stimulus is perceived as significant. Pareidolia speaks to an important question: how do humans impose order to randomness? According to Kahneman and Tversky (Kahneman and Tversky, 1979) when confronted with a choice that has low probability, approaching randomness, our top down cognitive processes imposes order on the choice to decrease uncertainty. Neuroscientists have shown that the brain favors faces over other patterns. Carl Sagan theorized that hyper facial perception stems from an evolutionary need to recognize faces. The 3 artists included in this show all make work which attempts to deal with the same perceptory sense of pareidolia. However, instead of letting the viewer find an image within the randomness of a form; each artist has created their own specific forms leading the viewer to some odd perception of something unknown.

Eliot Greenwald “Nightcar” series creates a personification of a car and the universe it exists in. In Greenwald’s painting and drawings, we see a sole car, tires humming along the asphalt in a fictional landscape, often in a canyon or forested scenery, headlights shinning down the road as two moons or planets hover in the sky above. The viewer might see a face made from all these elements. Nightcar, its landscape, and the heavens exists in a harmonization, and in a recognizable connection. This connection, the face we perceive, is a reflection of ourselves in the external natural world which we ultimately do not understand and do not have control over. It is what we all strive to do; find meaning in our world; connecting us as individuals to the larger universal awareness.

In a sort of opposite pareidolia, Corey Escoto’s work ties linguistics and images together. We are told what to perceive but the image rarely meets our imagined perception. In his multiple exposure polaroid photographs, he creates witty images in which we are told to see a “God Like Figure”. One would most likely think we would get an image of grandeur, and magnificence and yet in Escoto’s image all we get is a black blob. In “Our Protagonist” we get an actual profile of a human face, but it is generalized and featureless. No built-up narrative or heroic depictions that set this figure apart from any others. There are art historical precedents in this type of work, Magritte told us that his painting “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”, is in fact not a pipe, but just an image of one. “We don’t’ see things as they are. We see them as we are” said Anais Nin in her 1961 work Seduction of the Minotaur. Often the mind plays tricks on itself and perceptions may be fallible; our eyes tell us to observe one thing, our rational brain tells us to read signs or letters as something else.

Elizabeth Ferry makes several bodies of work dealing with the phenomena of pareidolia. Her paintings depict 2 figures coming together as one. The merging of two separate organisms joined and fused in an action. A kiss, two faces pressed into each other merging into one entity, creating a third face something entirely of its own. Her metallic chromed hand face sculptures, depicting two hands coming together could be the American Sign Language word meaning “more”; hand signing being a form of applying meaning to visual patterns. The two hands together can also be seen as a gesture made, reading as a face. Furthermore, we could image a light shined onto and past the sculpture projecting a shadow onto the wall, creating another example of pareidolia, the image of an animal or figure through light and shadow. In Ferry’s work we have an uncommon transformation of objects into something else through pure perception alone.

In today’s world, perceptions are shifted through Facebook and online social spaces with micro advertisements using hyper calculated algorithms to shape our view of reality. Perceptions of people, and situations are altered with face swap technologies, facial recognition apps, photoshopped images, and sound bits taken out of context. How are we to get an accurate understanding of the world and how are we to get a realistic and truthful comprehension of it? What are we to believe? What perception of reality do we trust and how do we recognize order and truth? Maybe we are all living with a heightened sense of Pareidolia or as Escoto perceives maybe it’s all “Smoke and Mirrors”

Corey Escoto has shown nationally and internationally, with solo exhibitions at Regina Rex, Halsey Mckay, East Hampton, NY; Corbett vs Dempsey, Chicago, IL; Taymour Grahne, New York, NY; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis; and is represented by Regina Rex, New York, NY. His work has been included in exhibitions at Smack Mellon, Brooklyn; The ArtHouse at Jones Center, Austin; and international venues including ACC Galerie, Weimar, Germany; Seven Days Brunch, Basel; FRAC Nord-Pas De Calais, Dunkerque, France. He is a recipient of the Gateway Foundation Grant, the Kala Art Institute Residency Program and Fellowship Award, and an Aperture Portfolio Prize finalist. Corey received a BFA from Texas Tech University (2004),an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis (2007), and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2016. He was born in Amarillo, Texas and currently lives in Ridgewood, NY.

Elizabeth Ferry (b. 1982 Springfield, IL) lives and works in New York City. She received her MFA in 2008 from Washington University in St. Louis. She was previously awarded artist in residence at the Cite Internationale des Artes in Paris. Ferry has been included in exhibitions at CANADA, Jeffrey Deitch, and Marvin Gardens. She has a forthcoming solo exhibition at Grice Bench in Los Angeles.

Eliot Greenwald was born in 1983 in Portland, Maine. He attended college briefly in New Hampshire where he studied English and film, however, he took a leave of absence in order to dedicate himself to a studio practice and the pursuit of education through experiential means. Over the years, amongst many jobs, Eliot has worked as a lab assistant cleaning test animal cages, a security guard, furniture salesperson, and a one on one special education assistant. He never returned to college and currently works and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Derek Weisberg is an artist living and working in Brooklyn NY. Weisberg received a BFA from California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, CA, in 2005. While in Oakland he cofounded and ran Boontling Gallery from 2005-2007. He was also a cofounder of the Oakland Art Murmur, a monthly gallery walk which has now attracted over 1 million visitors to Oakland galleries and art venues. He maintains a disciplined studio practice as well, recently having a solo show at Lefebvre et Fils, in Paris, a two person show with Alice Mackler at Kerry Schuss, and was a recipient of the Sharpe Walentas Studio Program residency, 2018-2019.

Emmanuel Barbault Gallery was established in April 2018. The gallery proposes a visually distinctive programming featuring emerging and mid-career artists with a dialogue on cross cultural art practices. A synthesis of its founder’s background taking its roots in Europe and in the US.

Here are a few installation views of the show:

Corey Escoto photographs on the left and Elizabeth Ferry painting on the right
Eliot Greenwald drawing on left, Elizabeth Ferry painting center and sculpture on right
Corey Escoto photos on Left, Elizabeth Ferry sculpture in center, Eliot Greenwald drawing on right
Corey Escoto photo left, Eliot Greenwald painting center, Elizabeth Ferry painting right
Eliot Greenwald drawings
Corey Escoto photos on left, Elizabeth Ferry sculpture on right

You can see all the works available in the show and take a virtual tour of the gallery on the Emmanuel Barbault gallery website: