The Berkenblit girl

At artnet, Adrian Dannatt reports on Ellen Berkenblit’s recently closed show at Anton Kern. “Her recent exhibition at Anton Kern Gallery consisted of 11 large canvases depicting in consistent black-and-white the profile of a woman who is clearly not a physical ideal, most obviously due to a snub nose so protrusive and dominant it shocks. This same woman occupies each painting and her expression remains constant. Along with big round button eyes and a dark circular bouche is that outrageously upturned nose, something like a baby�s pacifier or a jigsaw puzzle promontory, or perhaps some sort of phallic plug.

“An artist�s mature style often has a curious affinity with the art that was being produced during her childhood, and so it would be with Berkenblit and hand-painted Pop. The pleasingly artful artlessness, the casual traces of the brush, the throwaway evidence of each stage of the painting, smudges and charcoal outlines, the spontaneous accidents of gravity and grace, they are all there….Though the oil paint is laid flat and thin, it has many tonal variations and subtleties. Berkenblit�s seemingly simple blackness has patches of gloss which catch the light. It holds subtler shades of gray and even, when you look harder, traces of bruised yellow, pinkish purple, a white-tinted blue. Like the scumbled tonal range hidden in Ryman�s whites, or the smeared variants of gray deployed by Berkenblit�s longtime friend Christopher Wool, these paintings graduate their apparent naivet� to a sophisticated casualness. In their kooky sprezzatura and use of restricted tones, too, these works could be paired with the impressive black-and-white paintings of Carroll Dunham.”This girl figure might have come straight from Bruno Bettelheim and his Uses of Enchantment, a fictional embodiment of sexuality among our apparent innocence, a figural focus for us to follow throughout this bravura demonstration of painting for its own sake, an abstraction of attraction and its necessary opposite.” Read more.Ellen Berkenblit,” Anton Kern Gallery, New York, NY. Closed this week.

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