“Among the Missing,” Josh Hagler & Maja Ruznic at Jack Fischer Gallery

by Admin on 05/20/2014

Now on view at Jack Fischer Gallery, Among the Missing includes new works by partners and collaborating artists Joshua Hagler and Maja Ruznic. This exhibition is the first of two that will present original artwork made during and in response to their Kickstarter project, Drift where the two made art while in transit, on the streets, and in donated art studios as they traveled from San Francisco to Paris, Germany, Copenhagen, and worked with Syrian refugees in Jordan. Their project aims to explore through this artwork and a collaborative visual art book “not only a search for home, but an experiment to see what happens when the work is created in a state of transience and full involvement.”

Joshua Hagler’s large oil paintings at Jack Fischer Gallery are derived from appropriated scenes of director Jim Jarmusch’s 1995 western, Dead Man. In this collection of paintings Hagler concentrates on selected portions of the film that focus upon Colonialism or include colonist characters: from the beginning of the film where passengers of a locomotive train fire at a wild herd of buffalo, to the final scene where the main character, William Blake, a failed accountant from Cleveland, Ohio drifts out to sea on a boat wherein he lies dying. The images oscillate between the figurative and abstract and render the black-and-white film in bright symbolic colors, leaving these canvases intentionally ambiguous while the heightening the tension not only between the ‘otherness’ of the characters, but also their relationship with the land. Portraits of children in the Syrian refugee camps Hagler and Ruznic visited are placed alongside these works, making fact from fiction and provoking meditation upon the precarious relationship between foreigner and native, and upon place and belonging.

On the opposite wall of Hagler’s large paintings, Maja Ruznic’s iconic small, framed watercolors created from the experiences of making art with Syrian refugees also encounter similar themes of belonging and alienation in cooperation with space and place. While the small scale of Ruznic’s typical images invite viewers into the picture, creating intimate experience with these fractured portraits and writhing bodies, she deftly carries through that convoluted psychological imbalance and phantasmagoric quality with new larger pieces. Yet because of their grander scale, it is perhaps more difficult for viewers to remove themselves from the experience. In this new series of work from Drift Ruznic says, “I have embedded my figures into predominantly dark backgrounds and allowed them to appear stain-like, emerging from the darkness…” Without recognizable surroundings, these figures, already so ephemeral and ghost-like that they could metamorphose as quickly as a brushstroke, are further stripped of their spatial battens, floating within a disturbing abyss. Ruznic’s mention of their ‘stain-like’ quality also poignantly alludes to a disassociation but yet unable to be expelled, again finding themselves in an inextricable void. Without knowing where they are or from whence they came, Ruznic achieves meaningful expressions of discomfort, displacement, and abandonment.


“Among the Missing,” new work by Josh Hagler & Maja Ruznic will be at Jack Fischer Gallery through May 31, 2014. Drift, the 136-page hardbound limited edition, out in June, is available for pre-order at gallery.