Verne Dawson
June 9–July 22, 2022

188 & 172 East 2nd Street
New York, NY, 10009

Karma is pleased to present Autochthones, a solo exhibition of paintings and works on paper by Verne Dawson. The show is on view at 188 E 2nd street and 172 E 2nd street from June 9th to July 22nd, 2022. 

Verne Dawson wanted a cave to paint in. He found one, tucked away on a patch of land, inaccessible by car, near his home in North Carolina. Dawson journeyed there with the help of a local friend who was familiar with the cave. The two contorted their bodies through its small opening, slipping down into the dark. As they descended, pressing against the slick rock walls, albino crickets, the cave dwellers, crunched beneath their backs. When they arrived in the belly, a sandy rectangular cavern, Dawson had a realization. He knew that once he got out, he would never return, let alone with his paints.

Dawson presents work which explores the natural world in a series of paintings. A row of humans traipse through the wilderness, dwarfed by trees, just as much part of their surroundings as the flora and fauna. These are the autochthones, as Verne Dawson envisions them, the denizens of a future in which the natural world has overtaken human settlement. Derived from the Greek, meaning indigeous inhabitants (whether they be human, plant, or animal), the term takes on new context. 

Dawson’s landscapes are a doorway between the future and the ancient. A ravine opens up to a rusting car and a settlement nestled in the hillside. A local news story, portrayed in a triptych, has the air of a folktale; light lingers between bending branches, redolent of an ancient past. Kudzu, an invasive species of vine in the southern states, appears in other works, carpeting everything from trees to billboards. Nature obscures the signs of human settlement, invoking a vision of an antediluvian future. 

Dawson’s compositions are always non-photographic, his compositions are influenced by direct observation, the imprint of memory, and principally, the act of painting. By stressing substance over verisimilitude, Dawson allows metaphor to exist simultaneously with this naturalistic style. His figures fold into their environment, dancing between the density of freely applied paint. 

Motifs swirl into a hopeful gesture, which finds in the vengeful power of the natural world a kind of redemption. This is a belief in wildness, as Thoreau describes it, that is always present for Dawson. This belief informs an optimism, albeit delicate, which finds its way in his paintings, between the wreckage, amongst the leaves.  

Autochthones marks Verne Dawson’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. At Karma’s 188 E 2nd street location, seventeen paintings are exhibited. At 172 E 2nd street, a selection of fourteen works on paper are on view. An exhibition catalog is forthcoming.