BY JUDY DEYOUNG
At first glance, one of James Verbicky’s artworks could be construed as nothing more than a brightly colored piece of patchwork. But a closer look reveals a clever collage of vintage magazine cuttings, fragments of foreign advertisements, and recognizable brand names arranged in a neatly ordered grid. This is the work of a perfectionist, who puts bits of torn paper together in a manner that is highly stylized and altogether engaging.
From his early teens Verbicky, who grew up in a small town outside of Edmonton, in Canada, was drawn to the powerful print images and advertisements he saw in magazines. He began collecting old issues of Life magazine, and a visit to Paris in 2008 inspired him to make media paintings using vintage French posters, prints, and foreign publications, which he bought from vendors along the Seine.
Verbicky, now 40, moved to the Los Angeles area 10 years ago to escape the dreary Canadian climate. His studio is full of large tables covered with magazine spreads from his vast collection. When he creates a new piece, he begins by pulling out pages that catch his eye. “You have no idea what it takes to make these collages. It’s not something you crank out,” Verbicky explains. “When I’m getting ready for a show, I’ll look around the studio, and there are thousands and thousands of little scraps of paper.”
Once the work is assembled, Verbicky finishes it with resin, which makes the surface shiny. It also makes the paper transparent and causes the images on the backside to bleed through, creating more depth. “I’m careful to see what is behind each piece I pull- there may be coming through, which makes the collage more interesting and creates a certain mood,” he says. His work is also sculptural in nature. “The end result brings to mind the physical act of reading, as if to turn the next page,” says Lauren Nasella, the Boston-based chief operating officer of DTR Modern Galleries, where Verbicky’s work is on display.
Verbicky’s work was selected for a juried exhibition at the Louvre in Paris, and also has sold at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in New York City. His latest pieces are intended to remind us that we are continuously influenced by past and present iconic brands- and that we are constantly bombarded by too much information. Hence his busy ‘Blitz’ pieces, he says, “are kind of like anything goes… every single color, lots of text, lots of graphics… a mass explosion of things in your face.”
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