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August 13, 2021

Acquisition: JoAnn Verburg

JoAnn Verburg
WTC, 2003
chromogenic print
image/sheet: 102.24 x 71.76 cm (40 1/4 x 28 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Charina Endowment Fund

The National Gallery of Art has recently acquired two important photographs by JoAnn Verburg, 3 x Three (2019) and WTC (2003). The first works by Verburg to enter the National Gallery’s collection, they show how she seeks to capture extended moments of time in her art, a theme that she has explored since the 1970s.

Best known for her work from the mid-1990s onward that depicts olive groves in Spoletto, Italy, Verburg has written that when she's making her photographs, she often torques the image, "squeezing and stretching it . . . into being more lively or wacky or improbable." In the triptych 3 x Three, she creates a sense of motion in the olive groves’ branches and leaves, as if a breeze were blowing. Verburg made multiple panels, each a slightly different view of the same subject, giving viewers the sense that they are moving through the space, discovering it with her.

In WTC Verburg photographed her husband in a scene that evokes a sense of calm relaxation, a quiet Sunday spent reading the newspaper. On the front of the paper the viewer sees two faint, identically sized skyscrapers—images that, for many people, immediately conjure the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in New York City, destroyed by terrorists on September 11, 2001.

The headlines, "The Week in Review," "What Would Victory Mean?" and "The Clamor of a Free People" on the front page, "Before and After" on the back, point to that pivotal event as a moment of profound change. The dichotomies that Verburg explores in this image—between the personal and the sociocultural, the interior and the exterior—illustrate both the responsibility and the struggle that human beings face in integrating external events into their daily lives.

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