Anat Ebgi is pleased to announce Greg Ito: Sink or Swim on view at 372 Broadway, New York through April 20. This is Ito’s first solo exhibition in New York and presents an installation of paintings and a large sculpture. Up to their necks in water, visitors wade into an immersive panorama of unfolding disaster. Extending the drama of Ito’s pictures into space, a golden shark has made its home in the flood waters. Submerging the gallery in rising tides—of fear, precarity, and hardships—he sets the stage of a chaotic, but ultimately dreamy catastrophe. In a final gesture of hope for rescue, a doomed someone tosses out a message in a bottle.

Precision and a steady hand guide Ito’s painting process. His simple iconography is intricately rendered by hand in carefully applied layers of off-the-shelf house paints. The resulting paintings are simultaneously complex, flowing with color, syncopated rhythm, structure, and intensity. Absent brushstrokes, he embraces the flatness and sleekness of storybooks and computer graphics in a tradition hearking back to Pop art’s incorporation of industrial and advertorial strategies as critiques of consumer culture and the capitalist doom cycle. Lurking below the surface, a sculpture of a shark emerges from the gallery floor. Greatly feared, the creature must continuously swim to pump oxygen into its gills or it will die; Ito’s shark seems required to feed on gold coins.

The domestic scenes of Ito’s paintings are dense with rich imagery: objects left behind in the dash to higher ground, personal effects that nod to Ito’s heritage such as kokeshi dolls and his family crest, to starfish creeping up the wallpaper, oblivious to the disaster which brought them to their new home. Chrysalises, figurines of deer, a choo choo train, juxtaposed by floating pill bottles and liquor bottles are suggestive of innocence and its loss. Folding the autobiographical into the universal, Ito’s recurring motifs speak to his experiences as a new father—watching his young daughter grow up, pondering uncertainty about the world she will inherit, and how to persist through life’s many challenges in the face of crippling doubt.

Central throughout Ito’s work is the dual nature of life: ups and downs, rebirth amidst destruction, order and disorder. Equally nightmarish and dreamy, in an arched painting, Ito has placed a miniature landscape, composed like a still life of mushrooms, poppies, and mounds of earth, the ecosystem in miniature rests atop the bureau. Nature’s unstoppable forces encroach, against all obstacles the will to thrive persists. The gallery, the paintings on the wall, and the visitors to the exhibition are tossed into the melodrama of Ito’s shark infested waters. The provocation is uncomplicated but profound, engulfed by water, will we sink or swim through the inexorable tide of existence?