Joseph P. Gerges' suite of portraits titled "In God I Trust," is a highly intense and personal examination of spirituality--his and ours--in the age of renewed (un)holy wars and massive slaughter in the name of innumerable god(s). In his first solo exhibition Gerges mixes the modern and personal portrait format with the frontal and abstract paradigm of icons to investigate contemporary spirituality. Family and models look out at us frontally, stoically, aping orthodox prayer screens done in wax for contemplation as far back as the 7th century. The show has the über intensity of a first effort, but effectively suggests how power, wealth and presence have been mixed with divine sanction. This issue is so not new--the Pyramids and medieval wood panels depicting saints were efforts to link faith and a select class. Using a collision of found imagery and childhood memories drawn from the artist's Egyptian-American upbringing, Gerges attempts to explore the notion of faith and religion. His portraits hint at both a personal relationship and an abstraction that occurs in global and market realities (which is the source of the show title, taken from our favorite greenbacks). This is ambitious and dicey territory to tread without sounding preachy or New Age-ist. The distance provided by portraiture, the evocation of Byzantine iconography, mixed as these are with suggestions of the violence perpetrated by organized religion for millennia, make the show topical (Gallery C, South Bay).
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