Roland Bernier – Lifetime Artist

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“Man is no longer an artist, he has become a work of art.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Who’s to say that a circle is more significant than a square or a triangle…shapes are shapes.  Letters are shapes too – if you can divorce the symbolic connotations from letters grouped together to form words and just begin to admire the individual letters for their shapes, you can begin to understand the world of Roland Bernier.  For Roland, words are compositions of form, worthy of admiration.

There are many text-based artists whose works are really focused on the meaning of words or phrases – I immediately think of Barbara Kruger, Glenn Ligon, and Lawrence Weiner. Not all of Bernier’s work is devoid of reference, but that is not the main focus of his work.

It’s so rare to see anything truly new, but Bernier has been a pioneer; he started working with text-as-form some 50+ years ago. Since then, any number of artists have followed suit – consider Nancy Holt’s photograph “Concrete Poem” and Mel Bochner’s “Blah Blah Blah” paintings and even more recently of Thomas Müller’s ceramic forms in his show “Nothing Rhymes with Orange”, Fionna Banner’s “Concrete Poetry” and Jaume Plensa’s “Figurative Sculptures.”

I have visited Bernier’s studio a number of times to check out his archives (some is missing, but he has inventory dating back to 1965) and have seen eight or so shows at the Denver Art Museum, Spark Gallery and Walker Fine Art; I love his stacked words, the words on wheels, the cross words, his hysterical “What a Dump” series, “Talking in Circles” and his hands series.

My all-time favorite pieces are his more recent signature series.  After seeing some of his other shows, I went to see this body several years ago and initially tried to dismiss them. I found myself going back – the second time I saw his empty frames with nothing more than his signature, I recognized he was onto something. The third time I visited that show I understood: so much of art is about the signature – people rush up to look for the name.

Roland is now in his 80’s and for the past 5-6 years he has been acutely aware of his own mortality. His introspection leads him to explore the merger of art with artist. He now prefers the use of his own name in favor of more randomly selected text, covering literally anything and everything with his signature over and over and over …and over again, the latest pieces only with his last name. He is not morose, “This might be my last show, so I am only using my last name,” Roland says smiling, happy with his clever use of words.

Roland Bernier is represented by Walker Fine Art where “The Last Picture Show” is on view June 7-July 12. www.walkerfineart.com

Roland Bernier, "The Last Picture Show" at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier, “The Last Picture Show” at Walker Fine Art

Bernier at Denver Art Museum, 2007

Bernier at Denver Art Museum, 2007

Roland Bernier "Talking in Circles" at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier “Talking in Circles” at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier's Signature Series at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier’s Signature Series at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier Signature Series at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier Signature Series at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier, "What  A Dump" at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier, “What A Dump” at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier "HI" at Walker Fine Art

Roland Bernier “HI” at Walker Fine Art

Some other artists using text as compositional form:

Nancy Holt Concrete Poem at CAG

Nancy Holt Concrete Poem at CAG

Mel Blochner Blah, Blah, Blah

Mel Bochner Blah, Blah, Blah

thomas-muller-at-project-4

thomas-muller-at-project-4

Fiona Banner at Frith Street Gallery

Fiona Banner at Frith Street Gallery

Some artists using messaging in text-based artwork:

Barbara Kruger at the Hirshhorn

Barbara Kruger at the Hirshhorn

Glenn Ligon at the Whitney

Glenn Ligon at the Whitney

Lawrence Weiner at the Guggenheim

Lawrence Weiner at the Guggenheim

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Color/Pattern Studies

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This gallery contains 7 photos.

I am excited to share these two new series I began this the past year. They are hand-painted pyrographs on wood; the images on the longer strips are based on patterns I have created over the past 12 years and … Continue reading

Rita Blitt

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This gallery contains 20 photos.

Rita has been painting for over 70 years and has been making sculpture for nearly 50 years. When I look at her work, I can hear the music and feel the dance. It is a real treat to get to know … Continue reading

The MUST-SEE Show in Denver.

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If you only get to see one show in Denver, you really should check out the David B. Smith Gallery.

Michael Theodore fills the main gallery with an installation called “endo/exo.” At first glance (and I think probably in most of the image shots) it looks like industrial scaffolding; the lighting effects on the complex web of fibrous knots hint at stage design. It takes up the entire space and ultimately, he’d like to make it even bigger – like hundreds of feet bigger!

Take your time with it because it has so much to offer.  I got the chance to chat with Michael the other day and he explained a bit about his fascination with rhythms – both organic and mechanic (this makes total sense – he is a music professor); he envisions an increased interdependency…a symbiosis of man and machine.  It’s more than just man and machine, but really an exploration of the increased layering of complex systems and how they interact.

It’s easy to infer an influence of other artists who are working with light – Olafur Eliasson, James Turrell, Leo Villareal, and perhaps that’s right, but the work is more than that. It actually reminds me a bit of the installation in the Fuse Box at the Denver Art Museum; coincidentally, Annica Cuppetelli and Cristobal Mendoza have installed an interactive light display on rope. Their imagery responds with movements and sounds that draw the viewer’s attention away from the actual rope and into the digitized realm of human/computer interaction.

Micheal’s ropes never leave his story, they are held captive by the confines of the machine – there is a human/computer interaction here too:  lights change, the tick, tick, ticking of the clocks (okay, not actual clocks, but motorized ticking rods that could be clocks) speeds up and slows down, pausing for effect.  I find the narrative to be compelling – spellbinding, a bit sinister, and absolutely of the moment.

The rest of the show includes gorgeous generative loops on paper, delicately engraved scratchboards, and a series of video works and printed stills on view in the loft space.

There are a lot of shows in Denver right now that I have already written about – many of which are closing soon, but this one is up for a couple more weeks (June 15th). If you haven’t seen it already it is the one to rush out and see.

www.davidbsmithgallery.com

"endo/exo" by Michael Theodore, Courtesy the artist and David B. Smith Gallery; Photo: Melinda Kern

“endo/exo” by Michael Theodore, Courtesy the artist and David B. Smith Gallery; Photo: Melinda Kern

"endo/exo" by Michael Theodore, Courtesy the artist and David B. Smith Gallery; Photo: Brian Birlauf

“endo/exo” by Michael Theodore, Courtesy the artist and David B. Smith Gallery; Photo: Brian Birlauf

Top 10 in DC – Spring 2013

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I had the opportunity to go DC twice this Spring, and as a result my “Top 10” list is a little long this time around. It was great to get to go on back-to-back trips because some of the museums and galleries were installing shows during one trip or the other. I know I still missed a lot, but saw enough that my head is still spinning.  I tried to check out different parts of the city – Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Kalaroma, the H Street Corridor, Logan Circle, U Street, and of course the National Mall. It was a special treat to get to meet with Christine Neptune, who showed me about 2 dozen gorgeous Wolf Kahn monotypes; with Robert Brown, who showed me a portfolio of Per Kirkeby’s; and with  Andrea Marinkovich, who had a wonderful David Hockney.

Some of my favorites at the Museums:

  1. “Nam June Paik: Global Visionary” at Smithsonian American Art Museum
  2. “Ellsworth Kelly: Colored Paper Images” at the National Gallery
  3. “Albrecht Dürer: Master Drawings, Watercolors, and Prints from the Albertina” at the National Gallery
  4. “Nordic Cool” at the Kennedy Center
  5. “Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio & Dubuffet” at the Phillips Collection
  6. “Vanitas!” Jeanne Silverthorne at the Phillips Collection
  7. “Portraiture Now: Drawing on the Edge” at The National Portrait Gallery
  8. “Pump Me Up: DC Subculture of the 1980s” at the Corcoran
  9. “On Common Ground: Dominican Republic & Haiti” at American Museum of the Americas
  10. “Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848–1900” at National Gallery of Art

And at the Galleries:

  1. “Nothing Rhymes with Orange” at Project 4
  2. “Gordon Parks: An American Lens” at Adamson Gallery
  3. Robert Longo at Adamson Gallery
  4. Mel Bochner at Robert Brown Gallery
  5. “Gathering Space” by Timothy Thompson at Hamiltonian Gallery
  6. “Concrete Abstract” at Heiner Contemporary
  7. William Whitaker at DCAC
  8. “Narciso Maisterra – Recent Work” at Hillyer Art Space
  9. New Paintings by Kevin H. Adams at Gallery Plan B
  10. “Trash Talk” at the Torpedo Factory
Thomas Muller at Project 4

Thomas Muller at Project 4

Thinker on Rock 1997 Barry Flanagan

Thinker on Rock 1997 Barry Flanagan

Trashtalk by Alex Lockwood

Trashtalk by Alex Lockwood

Ellsworth Kelly colored paper

Ellsworth Kelly colored paper

Timothy Thompson Gathering Space

Timothy Thompson Gathering Space

El Maiz - Edgar Negret, 1996 at Organization of American States
El Maiz – Edgar Negret, 1996 at Organization of American States
Juha Pykäläinen - Elk Towers

Juha Pykäläinen – Elk Towers

She Who Must Be Obeyed - Tony Smith

She Who Must Be Obeyed – Tony Smith

Ai Wei Wei - Packing up the zodiac sculptures

Ai Wei Wei – Packing up the zodiac sculptures

Cool Disco Dan at Corcoran

Cool Disco Dan at Corcoran

Jeanne Silverthorne at Phillips Collection

Jeanne Silverthorne at Phillips Collection

David Hockney - An Imaginary Landscape 1967

David Hockney – An Imaginary Landscape 1967

Mel Bochner - From Floating World, 1990

Mel Bochner – From Floating World, 1990

10 Shows to See in Denver Right Now – April 2013

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There are so many great shows going on right now – I think that even though it’s still snowing outside, the exhibits are heating up:

  1. The shows at Robischon are an odd mix of Arcimboldo and vanitas  mixed in with woodland adventures and carnivals. As you’d expect at this gallery, the shows flow seemlessly – I think I love everything about it.
  2. “The Art Bucket” by Colin Livingston at Plus Gallery – Perhaps the most provocative show in the city right now. At first glance these highly-energetic swatches of color seem banal. Viewers have the option of leaving it at that or to delve deeper into a confrontational look at commoditization, consumerism, and consumption.
  3. “Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land” at the Denver Art Museum  – go see it now, it’s closing soon!
  4. “Bemsha Swing in Denver” Installation by Yoshitomo Saito at Ironton Studios – He is my kind of artist; his bronze sculptures capture the sacred in the everyday.
  5. “Heidi Jung: Black & White” at the Arvada Center – I especially like the charcoal-on-paper pieces, created in situ.
  6. “Long Lost” by Ryan Everson at Gildar Gallery –  For me, each peace would stand alone better than with the distraction of the others. That said, this Portland artist is clever and thoughtful and he offers up the chance for viewers to feel like they are clever and thoughful too.
  7. “Gather & Gentle Motion” at Walker Fine Art – While Roger Hubbard’s kinetic sculptures seem to be an audience favorite, I am obsessed with Brigan Gresh’s smooth, waxy abstract surfaces that reveal constance evolution of narrative.
  8. “Mind over Matter” at Space Gallery – Some of my favorite paintings out there right now; don’t forget to check out the back gallery where the show continues with Pat Aaron’s “Key West” encaustics and Ian McLaughlin’s “botanical science fiction.”
  9. “Moving Paint 2012-2013” by Ania Gola-Kumor at The Sandra Phillips Gallery – The new gallery space gives her complex paintings the natural light they require; I think they look better than ever.
  10. “Grey Towers” by Monque Crine at Goodwin Fine Art – These black and white paintings document JFK just months before his assassination and sit in dialog with her grandfather’s photographic archives of the same.
Colin Livingston at Plus Gallery

Colin Livingston at Plus Gallery

Ryan Everson at Gildar Gallery

Ryan Everson at Gildar Gallery

Brigan Gresh at Walker FIne Art

Brigan Gresh at Walker Fine Art

Yoshitomo Saito at Ironton Studios

Yoshitomo Saito at Ironton Studios

Nam June Paik at the Smithsonian

I have long been mesmerized by the frenetic visual displays of Nam June Paik’s video installations, but taking a look at the Smithsonian’s current show, “Nam June Paik, Global Visionary” takes it all to another level.  I love seeing retrospectives, and this viewing of his archives, is definitely that – and I do love it!

The thing that I have mentioned with other artists is that it is so helpful to see their work in the context of what was going on in the world at the time. What really sets Paik’s work apart is that he changed the context. He coined the term “Super (Electronic) Highway” 40 years ago and his work foresees the availability of information and unlimited access to media through electronics…at a time when people were still using typewriters, telegrams and postage stamps. His work clearly shows an eye to the editorial – synthesizing historical imagery with news media, cultural commentary and futuristic fantasy in a collage of (at the time) groundbreaking technology.

Check out the show – it is at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through August 11, 2013.

Merce-Digital, 1988

Merce-Digital, 1988

Electronic Superhighway Continental US, Alaska, Hawaii (1995)

Electronic Superhighway Continental US, Alaska, Hawaii (1995)

Megatron/Matrix, 1995

Megatron/Matrix, 1995

TV Buddha (1974)

TV Buddha (1974)