CANADA is pleased to present “Kate, Gisele, Agyness, Natalia, Kanye, George & Simon”, a solo exhibition of paintings by Katherine Bernhardt.
Katherine Bernhardt is hosting a month-long sleepover party at CANADA with her favorite people and we are all invited. Fashion models, rappers and pop legends populate Bernhardt’s paintings in dizzying displays of weightlessness and celebrity, all painted in a colorfully loose style on huge canvasses.
Hunting through vast amounts of “raw material”: (fashion magazines, album covers and billboards) Bernhardt zeros in on exactly the “right” image. Appropriation is the name of the game. The process is simple and straightforward: with a ripped out magazine page in one hand and a cheap hardware paintbrush in the other, Bernhard moves in for the kill with gobs of colorful acrylic paint. Free, raw and virtuosic the paintings emerge like a volcano or Shakira doing her thing.
There are long sweeps of color, dramatic dark backgrounds and copious drips to evidence the rapidity of her marks. Faces and eyes stare back, as if to reverse our endless gaze. Bernhardt shows both empathy, and aggression towards her subjects, but is a devoted fan of everyone she paints. She is love with these people and one senses that they reflect back onto Bernhardt – her fantasy life and identidity. There is love and candor, violence and joy rolled into each “portrait”.
Primarilary these are powerful paintings, however, nearly abstract, full of life and optimistic springtime energy. Legs, arms and torsos mingle, forming strange patterns and spaces that are both graphically bold and psychologically complex. The slashes and lines are both deeply and completely gestural, but they are also the contours of a face or the curve of a mascara eye. All huge and in our faces, Bernhardt brings the figures right up to the surface of the painting, each surrounded by a deep murky brown hinting at the bottomless depths of the spirit or a nightclub.
Bernhardt paintings reward people who look at them. We get lost in vibrant colors, gorgeous marks and drips that turn into a leg, a bikini and a face. The blurry faces then begin to look like a person and then suddenly THAT person, the person we have seen before in the movies or in a magazine on the bus. We are alone, face to face, looking at Kate, Gisele, Agyness, Kanye, George, & Simon. Bernhardt has, with generosity and grace, recovered these “Face products” and given them back their humanness through her paintings. So we see these stars with new eyes, through the spatters and smears, and perhaps, even better, we get to see Katherine Bernhardt shining through and if that isn’t expressionism I don’t know what is.