Gerry Bergstein: Body Politic

A Monumental Leap at Gallery Naga

By: - Jan 25, 2020

Gerry Bergstein: Body Politic runs from January 31 through February 29.  A reception for the artist and the public will be held at the gallery on Friday, January 31 from 6 to 8 pm.  A walk-through with Bergstein and John R. Stomberg, Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, will take place on Saturday, February 8 at 1 pm.  No RSVP required.  
Bergstein’s work has often been characterized by manic activity--a profusion of images, sometimes autobiographical; narrative incidents involving cultural icons from Freud to Mr. Rogers; agitated paint handling.  His work teeters between this activity and a tranquility beneath the surface.  In these new paintings, an earnestness has descended on his figures as they survey the landscape in front of them.  “The men are desperate for control, which leads to all sorts of wonderful and destructive things.  The men are doggedly working to explain and control the unexplainable and uncontrollable.  The men are flawed but valiantly slogging away,” Bergstein explains.
In his statement for the exhibition, Bergstein comments on the basis of the new work.
My new work continues a decades long fascination with the paradoxes of the high and the low, the manic and the melancholic, the hilarious and the horrific- this list could go on and on.  Ever present references to issues of mortality in art and life have become more personal as I get older.  In a way these works are landscapes of my own body and mind.  The work “Body Politic” in particular is inspired by a landscape by Philip Guston, which can also be seen as a body with insects crawling on it--probably a self portrait.  To paraphrase Guston, I’m not so interested in “making it new” but in “making it old” by discovering something that was always a part of me but which I am seeing in a new way.  For me art is about artists freely investigating and sharing the lenses through which we see the world. 
Bergstein continues with an explanation of his process, which has almost entirely departed from collage and returned to painting.
 I am much better at free association than preconception.  This necessitates a process where radical editing is integral.  In these works, I begin by drawing through extremely slow drying white paint which is laid on top of a dried black ground.  I “etch” through the wet paint with homemade tools to make lines and images of increasing density.  They are developed over a period of about a month.  Broad gestures and accidents suggest unexpected images and compositions which I could never have planned.  After drying, the paintings incubate for up to a year, during which time subtle but important adjustments are made which further develop spatial nuance and complexity of the images.
The landscapes, mounds and erupting facades, appear oversized and teeming with energy.  Painted almost entirely in shades of black, white, and neutrals, most paintings reveal a glimpse of blue offering a shred of hope in what appears to be an otherwise bleak situation.